Thursday, December 26, 2013

Here Are Five Good Reasons Why I Won't Remember 2013 Fondly

Am I the only one who finds that, the older I get, the faster time seems to go by?

It’s nice when that happens at work.  It’s nice when that happens in the weeks and months preceding an eagerly anticipated trip.  But in the grand scheme of things, it bothers me more than it pleases me.  Because, the faster time goes by, the less time there is left.  Yes, I know that’s an unpleasant and somewhat depressing thought.  But, if you’ve been reading my blog on a regular basis, you probably know by now that I’ll never be accused of being a “Pollyanna” type.

But Pollyanna or not, one thing I can tell you for sure is that 2013 cannot end soon enough for me.  This year has brought a lot of unhappiness into my life, and I won’t be even a little bit sorry to see it go.  So, if the time between now and January 1, 2014 flies by quickly, I won’t complain at all.

I know there are lots and lots of people – many of them more directly involved in some of the events I am about to reluctantly revisit below than I actually was – who have had a much tougher year than I have.  But I couldn’t let this year come to a close without remembering some of the significant things that have affected me over the past twelve months. 

So, without further ado, here are the Five Good Reasons Why I Won’t Remember 2013 Fondly.   

Or, to be more blunt, the Five Good Reasons 2013 Sucked.

1.  April 15

On April 15, the city I love and call home was the victim of a terrorist bombing. 

I still can’t even quite believe it really happened.

Monday, April 15 was Patriot’s Day, a holiday commemorating the first shot fired in the American Revolution.  It is only recognized as a holiday here in Massachusetts, and in one other state (Maine?).  The day is celebrated here with a morning Red Sox game at Fenway Park, and the running of the Boston Marathon.  Some businesses are closed.  Mine was open, and I was at work around 3:00, when my cell phone buzzed with “breaking news.”  I looked over at the pop-up, and it said something about an explosion being reported near the finish line.  It didn’t really hit me what they were trying to say until follow-ups started coming in.

Someone had set off two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  By the end of the day, we learned three people had been killed, and several hundred injured.  Some of the injuries were quite serious, involving the loss of limbs.  A neighbor in my building was running that day.  (Thankfully he was okay, as was his family.)  People come here from all over the globe to participate in what is considered one of the premier marathons in the world.  This day is usually one in which our city is celebrated for its history and its beauty.  That two young men with hatred in their hearts could turn the day into a national tragedy both horrified and angered me.  I remember coming home from work, and Mike, seeing the shape I was in, saying, “bad things happen,” in an effort to calm me down and help me get some perspective.  It had the opposite affect.  I just looked at him, and said, “But they DON’T happen HERE,” and started crying.  (Much as I am doing right now, as I type this.)

That “attitude,” if you will, seems to have been the prevailing one around here.   Almost immediately, people everywhere were using the phrase “Boston Strong.”  Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, originally from the Dominican Republic, perhaps said it best when he proclaimed, five days later, at the first Fenway game to be played following the bombings, “This is our fucking city.”  Sure, we were hurt, and we were sad, but God damn it, nobody screws with us.  We pretty much proved that a few days later, when we shut down the entire city until we found the bombers.

Bostonians are nothing if not tough.

2.  April 15 (part two) and May 28

Wasn’t there a movie called “Death Takes a Holiday?”  Maybe not.  Regardless, death most assuredly didn’t take any holidays in 2013.

The world of literature lost Tom Clancy and Elmore Leonard.  The entertainment world lost James Gandolfini and Cory Monteith from “Glee.”  The sports world lost Ken Norton, Earl Weaver and Stan Musial.  The world of science and technology lost Ray Dolby.  The music world lost Ray Manzarek, Faye Hunter, Alvin Lee and Lou Reed. 

The human race at large lost Nelson Mandela.

On a more personal level, we lost two people in our small condo building, one suddenly, and one after a long battle with cancer. 

And a couple of people who were important to me, in different ways and at different times in my life, left this world much, much too soon.

On the same day Boston was being bombed, one of the most talented and criminally under-appreciated musical talents in the history of pop music passed away suddenly in California.  I didn’t learn of Scott Miller’s passing until that Thursday, while checking Facebook as I waited for a train into work.  He was a songwriter of unmatched intelligence, humor and wit.  One of my very first blog entries is a testament to his talent, and you can read it here. 

Upon his passing, a rather odd, and strangely wonderful, thing started to happen.  The Facebook group for his fans, all of us mourning his loss in our own ways, started to bond in a way I don’t think I could have ever predicted.  Friendships began.  A former band mate and lifelong friend started a fund for the future education of Scott’s young daughters.  (Here.)  His friends, band mates from a 30+ year career, and even his widow shared, and continue to share, stories, memories and photographs with his fans.  It’s still going strong, and it’s really been something pretty extraordinary to witness.  I’m decidedly Agnostic, but it’s hard for me not to believe that Scott has had a hand in this whole thing.

About six weeks after Scott Miller’s death, Steven Paul Perry passed away, after a long battle with cancer.  If Scott wasn’t well known in the musical world, Steven may have been even less so.   But he was an amazingly talented guitarist, and over the course of his career he played with the likes of Orchestra Luna with Rick Berlin and John Hiatt.

Steven was the younger brother of one of my high school friends, and he was also my first boyfriend.  He was a sweet and kind person, and, as I said, very talented.   My heart goes out to his parents, who were always very kind to me, and who I was very close to when I was younger.  They never would have dreamed back then that they would some day have to bury their youngest child, something no one should ever have to do.

There are a lot of YouTube videos of Steven’s work.  This one includes not only an interview, but also an appearance on the Tonight Show.

3.  October 15

As a woman, I’ve always dreaded my annual mammogram.  But, as a woman, I’ve always faithfully endured them.  I know how valuable they can be.  But until this year, it hadn’t really hit home just how important they actually are, and how effectively they can, and do, save lives.

Leslie is my best friend.  We’ve known each other for over 30 years, shared so many good and bad times I can’t even count them.  We’re more like sisters than friends.  We have so many memories and “in” jokes, it’s almost ridiculous.

In August, Leslie got called back for more tests after her annual mammogram.  This, in and of itself, is not unusual.  It’s happened to me before, and it’s happened to her more than once.  Still, she was convinced that this time it was bad.  And, after an ultrasound and resulting biopsy, she got the word.

You know.  That word.  Cancer.

She called me right after she heard, on a Monday afternoon, around 4:00.  And, Leslie being who she is, she called me back about two hours later, to make sure I was okay.  Yes, she was calling me to make sure I was okay.  That’s the kind of person she is.

The doctors felt they had caught the cancer very early, and that a lumpectomy would be sufficient to get all of it.  Leslie wasn’t having any of that.  She opted for a double mastectomy. 

She had her surgery at Mount Auburn Hospital on Tuesday, October 15, and was discharged the next day.  She was exhausted and in pain, but she was alive, and even laughing.

I can’t really think too hard about all the “what ifs” here.  What if she hadn’t had her annual mammogram?  What if she hadn’t followed up immediately with the ultrasound and biopsy?  What if she hadn’t opted for the double mastectomy?  (The post-surgery biopsy on the tissue from the breast without any tumors showed that tumors would likely have developed within a year or two.)   

If I think about it too hard, it starts to hit me how easily I could have lost my best friend, instead of having a celebratory dinner with her at her favorite restaurant after she started to feel better.

Leslie’s back at work now, and we just had our annual holiday lunch with my sister on Thursday afternoon.  I had a few gifts for her.  Most of them were very different than the usual gifts I get for her.  They have a lot more meaning now.  And so does just being able to have lunch with her.

4.  December 17

I had actually written my year-end blog last Monday night.  Something told me not to post it yet.  It was almost as though I felt like, if I posted it, something else would happen.

So I didn’t post it.

And something else happened anyway.

Last month, I wrote a blog about pets.  (You can read it here.)  In it, I talked about my beautiful, sweet rescue Golden Retriever, Suzie.  Last year, my husband also wrote a moving blog about Suzie (here).  As you can probably tell from reading what we wrote, Suzie was a pretty awesome dog.

You’ll no doubt notice I said “was.”

Last Tuesday morning, I said goodbye to Mike like I always do.  I think I reminded him not to forget to take Suzie to daycare.  She’d been going to a very nice daycare near his office on occasion.  She loved it there.  They loved her.

Around 8:00, my phone at work rang.  It was Mike.  He sounded…odd.  He told me I needed to go home, and when I asked what was up, he told me that, just after he’d left the daycare, they called him.  Suzie had collapsed as she ran to the other end of the room.  She died while they were on the phone with him.

He returned to the daycare immediately.  He hadn’t gone more than a mile or two before getting the call.  They, of course, felt terrible.  Nothing like this had ever happened there before.  One of the staff insisted on taking her in his van, and following Mike to our vet’s office, which is a good 15 miles away from there.  Mike says he doesn’t even remember how he got there.  He was in rough shape.

Our vet did a short exam, and didn’t see anything unusual.  He said dogs very rarely have heart attacks, and that his best guess was maybe an aneurysm.  I guess it’s some comfort to know it wasn’t anything we could possibly have noticed.  I guess it’s also some comfort to know she didn’t suffer.  But my sweet dog is gone, and finding comfort in anything right now is difficult.  (Mike wrote a short piece about her passing the other day - it's right here.)

I feel as though someone has cut a huge piece out of my heart.  It’s hard to describe, unless you’ve owned and loved a pet.  I know the pain will ease over time, and I know we might even find another dog to love.  But I also know I will miss her for the rest of my life.

5.  The Small Stuff, and the Not-so-Small Stuff

There were a lot of other lousy things that went on this year. 

People close to me continued to suffer the debilitating effects of Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease.   A close friend took a serious fall and broke her collarbone over the summer.  My husband had issues with his hip, back and neck.  I have friends who have lost people close to them, and friends who have watched their loved ones go through serious health crises. Even yours truly, who has been heard to boast at times about her sometimes ridiculously good health, suffered from both conjunctivitis and shingles.  While both were annoying, luckily, both also ended up being very mild cases.   Still, offhand, I can’t recall a less healthy year for both myself, and for those close to me.

I turned 60 this year, and that one was tough.  It sort of symbolizes the change from “middle age” to…whatever it is that comes next.  The wrinkles are looking a little less like “laugh lines.”  The back pain is a little more frequent. I sometimes find myself repeating stories I’ve already told.

Still, I’m in better shape now than I was at 50, and maybe even at 40.  I exercise several times a week, and walk at least a mile a day, usually more.  I’m still the one who gets up on a ladder to change the smoke detector batteries and the light bulbs.  And I think I’ve missed two, maybe three, days from work due to illness in the past five years.

I started wearing hearing aids this fall.  If you think that’s no big deal, then you apparently have not yet started to feel the hand of time on the back of your neck.  Trust me, I am smart enough to know I should count my blessings.  And I have quite a few of them.  A good job, a good home, a wonderful husband, a sister I adore, and friends who I love. 

But finally giving in to the advice of my husband and friends, and getting fitted for hearing aids, was tough.  Yeah, they’re “hard to see.”  I get that.  But if you look hard enough, you can see them.  That telltale plastic wire is a dead giveaway. 

But guess what?  I do hear better now.  We no longer have the television volume at a level that was becoming painful for Mike.  I no longer smile and nod at someone rather than asking them for the third time to repeat what they’ve just said.  And the best thing?  My Audiologist told me himself that the type of hearing loss I have is genetic, and has nothing to do with the loud rock music I’ve happily listened to for over 45 years.  To celebrate, I’ve asked for an iPod Nano for Christmas. 

So I guess, all in all, things could be worse.  I’m happy and healthy.  My marriage is as
strong today as it was the day we said “I do.”  Two weeks before my 60th birthday, I rode in a helicopter over an Alaskan glacier, and took a trip on a dog sled.  I’ve met some great people this year, both at work and outside of work.  I finally got to Vancouver, where our good friends live, and I saw why they love it there so much.  I saw the “Big Star” documentary, after having contributed towards its production via Kickstarter.  (It’s great, see it.)  I started writing a blog, and found that I really enjoy it.

And best of all, I still have my best friend and partner in crime around, and will for a long, long time.


  1. And Five Good Reasons why it was a good year...
    1-Your friend survived cancer
    2- You are in better shape today than you were ten if not twenty years ago
    3- Your marriage is as strong as it is today as it was when you said "I do"
    4- Your hearing is greatly improved due to the courage of getting hearing aids
    5- You had a wonderful trip to Alaska and Vancouver

    May those "laugh lines" continue to increase in 2014. Only you are seeing them as wrinkles.

    1. And, of course, you are absolutely right! I tried to emphasize positive aspects of most of the things I wrote about (with the exception of the death of my dog, which was just too fresh and painful). I guess it didn't come across quite as positively as I'd hoped...Happy New Year, and thanks for your comment!! :-)