The Long View
Letâ€™s face it, any retrospective I try to write about 2009 is going to be full of my fatherâ€™s illness and death. Anything else that happened in my life paled in comparison, and even when I think about other important things from the past year I think about them reflected in the light of that experience, and of my grief. That is as it should be. It is all still too close to set all that aside even for self-examination.
Yet itâ€™s a time of year when we look back. A list of songs (or movies, or books – I could bury myself in lists) is one tool to use, another might be old blog entries, a collection of ticket stubs, an array of photographs. This blog was new in 2009, and it falls under the same shadow as the rest of the year. I didnâ€™t intend for it to turn into a place to talk about Dad; when I started it he didnâ€™t have a single symptom. I donâ€™t keep ticket stubs any more. Photos of the year can still bring a special kind of pain.
Whatâ€™s come to mind has been the longer view. Itâ€™s the end of the â€śAughts,â€ť that fraught decade. Somewhere I read someone elseâ€™s look back at not just the past year but the past ten years. That got me to thinking about New Yearâ€™s Eve 1999.
It was honestly the worst New Yearâ€™s Eve of my life. I was very sick, and no one could yet tell me what was wrong with me. I was on two â€śjust in caseâ€ť antibiotic prescriptions, strong ones that could not be mixed with alcohol without dire consequences. It was â€śY2Kâ€ť of course, and I worked in the internet industry. I hadnâ€™t drawn the truly short straw of working the overnight shift on 12/31/99, but I did have to be at work at 8 a.m. on January first. For whatever reason, even though I was bleeding from places youâ€™re not supposed to and felt like hell, even though I couldnâ€™t touch a drop of alcohol, even though I had to be home very early to get enough rest before work the next day, I still insisted on going out to whatever huge party was being held that year. Everyone was stinking drunk but me, and as I sat there and got beer spilled on me and confetti lodged in my ears, I wondered what the hell I was thinking.
It seems to me I was in that state a lot ten years ago. Not only unhappy with my own decisions but sometimes actively confused by them. How could I be confused? Wasnâ€™t I the one behind the decisions? The truth of the matter was that I was badly out of touch with myself. I struggled with both money and work ethic, not able to see how the latter affected the former. I still felt entitled to things I hadnâ€™t worked very hard for. I was unable to ask for help; at times I was unable even to determine if I needed help. For various reasons, even though I was 27 years old when the clock ticked over to midnight on January 1, 2000 I still wasnâ€™t behaving like an adult.
That summation makes it sound like it was all bad; it was not. There were good times all throughout the decade and say what you will about the start of it, I was making real progress throughout it. There were lessons to learn, some the very-hard way, and I wasnâ€™t always gracious about them, but a lot of them did take eventually. Iâ€™ve made some of the best friends in my life in the past decade, and that is worth a lot.
The things that happened to me in 2009 were difficult, but they were a part of life, a part that comes to all of us in time. The searching, honest conversations I had with my Dad as he was dying are among my most treasured memories. The thing I keep coming back to is that me ten years ago could not have had those conversations. Me ten years ago could not have been strong the way my father asked me to be strong. I could not have been as honest about my feelings, my grief, or my need for help. I am proud of who I am today, proud of the daughter I could and can be, proud of the help I can give and receive, proud to admit I still have so much to learn and so far to go. I cannot even begin to imagine the next decade. I can only hope I have the grace to experience it fully.