Here's the latest Next Chapter newspaper column.
I don’t know about you, but for me, 2020-21 merges into a single chunk of time. And here we are in 2022 as COVID remains the lead story most days, regardless the media outlet we choose.
Recently I celebrated something peculiar: “That’s great,” I told Brian. “A viral throat infection!”
Only in the COVID era (yes, I think we're officially in an era) could anyone applaud a throat infection. Yet I did because it meant that it wasn’t COVID nor that other C word. He had been to the doctor, tested negative for the dreaded coronavirus and strep throat. No scripts were prescribed; just ibuprofen, rest, and fluids. We could do that.
As the illness lingered, and Brian worried about getting his voice back, I assured him that he would.
"But if you don’t,” I added, “in a show of solidarity, I will never speak again.”
Hmm, wondered how that would work out.
I told him that he needed to avoid talking for a while though, to heal. I encouraged him to communicate through other creative means such as sign language, pantomime, interpretive dance, or a voiceless skit. I’m still waiting to see that interpretive dance.
I’m now one week into my second year of retirement; no longer able to use the term, “new retiree.” Maybe I’m at the age where I’m not new at much of anything.
Still. I celebrate much about 2021. On that day Dec. 30, 2020 day when I walked out the back door for the last time at 201 S. 14th St., New Castle, my immediate goal consisted of making it to the car without tears. I cleared that objective, a reminder that when life is hard, we need to simply just get through the next thing; and the one after that.
When last January arrived, my time, emotions, and prayers went into seeing Brian through his health issues. There were dark days, and difficult moments; there were tears, and even sobs. There were weeks when I wondered what awaited us, and how or if he would get better.
But thank You God! He got better, and by the time we put up the 2021 Christmas tree, Brian asked, “What do you think about rearranging the living room and putting the tree up somewhere new?”
I looked at him as though he were an alien from not just Mars, but from another galaxy. Who was this man? And where did he get the kind of energy to ask me that question? I didn’t have it regarding a room redo—but it was almost worth it for no other reason than he apparently did.
The shero (that’s the female version of the word hero; you’re welcome) of the year came in the form of a nurse friend who provided one small tip that became an immediate game changer for Brian’s medical situation. An angel among us.
By late summer, Brian’s first post-surgical cat scan returned clean, and it felt as though we had won the lottery! Not just the lottery, and a ticket around the world, and a lake house, and whatever else you think might make your heart sing. But I can tell you that a singing heart isn’t about material things. It’s about good health. Suddenly, we could laugh, joke, and make plans again.
What’s amazing are the other blessings that piled high in 2021. I not only finished writing the book I spent the year working on, but am able to connect with some kindred spirit writers who formed a small monthly group. When we meet for four hours, it feels like four minutes.
One tip I got from one of the writers moved my book project forward in ways I couldn’t have imagined—through the suggestion of a book designer. I’m not just talking cover typography, but an interior designer. Yes, every book has a specific interior look, much as does a home.
There were other joys: the support in prayers and deeds of people who care about us; the gathering of Brian’s aunts and cousins in October; watching our gutted and rebuilt bathroom emerge from a five-month wait after ordering materials.
There’s the service group I joined at church; the projects our life group has worked on this year; the delight of meals shared with friends, and the feeling three times a week of water in a pool at my exercise location.
This newspaper, along with those in New Castle and Shelbyville, allowed me to reimagine a column similar to the one that I wrote in Henry County for three decades—only through this lens of being a little older. Well, a lot older. I started it at age 30 and here I am, somehow 63. (I can't even describe myself as in my early sixties now, can I?)
While I have no idea where the years went, I also affirm that there is life after one’s main career. Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll have more to say this year. Thank you for reading. These days, my writing is done from a comfy recliner with a Boston terrier nestled beside me. Those too, are blessings.
Whatever unfolds for you in 2022, know that even in the hardest of times, blessings will show up.
Just ask the Good Lord to help you see them.