You know what? I'm glad this past year is over. It was a hard year in many respects.
A year ago tomorrow, Dee Ann died of leukemia that she didn't even know she had. She was a distant cousin of mine and a friend from college. To say "friend from college" sounds trivial, but when you go to a very small private college, the word "friend" carries great strength and shared memories. And just a month later, another college classmate took his own life. There was such an outpouring of weeping and grief for this man, who always yelled a friendly greeting across campus and made people laugh. And sometime in between Dee Ann and Mike, Randy's biological dad passed away. I don't know the date. It was a quiet passing sometime in the winter. Randy traveled to Illinois for the funeral. They weren't close; Randy had been raised by his adopted father. But another leaving feels lonely and sad.
Lonely and sad. I would be lying if I said I weren't lonely and sad because of a long-time friendship that has fallen apart this past year. And I, I who have taken such pride (yes, I said pride) in my longstanding habit of not holding grudges, am nurturing a grudge. I am seeking more earnestly than ever an understanding of the concept of forgiveness. Forgive and forget, forgive and forget: for perhaps the first time in my life, I watch the two in an enigmatic dance and ponder joining.
This fallen friendship has made me cautious. Because one of my faults is that I failed to read between the lines—to grasp the hidden meaning of actions or non-actions—I find myself, well, questioning my relationships with other people. What signs am I not following? Did I miss an important signal in her body language? Are they talking about me?
Aaah, what a tangled web. My greatest desire this year, I think, has been for honest communication. Gotta problem with me? Please. Tell me now. I can't bear the suspense, and I probably don't understand the rules to your game. I need the directions, spelled out clearly and sensibly.
Honest communication. This spring some of our friends went through a trial of tremendous proportions. We cried with them, prayed for them, ached for them, and cheered for them. And loved them, nonstop and without conditions. Someday, I know, my writer friend will put it all in words.
Tangled webs. Late this summer we had to navigate through a tangled web of lies and manipulation, spun by someone who was supposed to be a role model. My husband is a kind, gentle man who has tremendous tolerance, even for fools. But this foolish man sent us into a tailspin that swallowed our time and energy. Cleaning up after him was exhausting, and yet there is a certain joy that comes with saying good riddance to such toxicity. A palpable freedom when the sore spot is gone. Still, those weeks were draining, and our hearts were heavy at seeing mean-spiritedness in action.
Heavy hearts. This August my parents sold their house in upstate New York, where I grew up. Though I did most of my grieving the year before, it was still hard, so hard, to say goodbye to this house. After the kids and I visited as we have every summer for years, this year, after weeping, I took a deep breath and drove away.
Those were the hard things. Those were the things that contributed to my spending this past year feeling slightly out of sorts, sort of not myself. Learning grown-up lessons and facing my own frailties.
But there was good, too. My family is strong and healthy. We laugh a lot and take joy in each other and the good, fresh mountain air and a home complete with much, much more than we need. My firstborn turned 16, finished his Eagle Scout project, went to Philmont Scout Ranch and hiked 75 miles, and got his driver's license. And applied for colleges. Randy and I celebrated our 20-year anniversary in a blissful getaway weekend with an amazing hike. And a hot tub.
We got to spend a weekend in the mountains with some dear, dear friends of ours. My parents moved just a mile down the road, and I can see their precious faces every single day. My sweet friend had a long-awaited baby boy. I got to go to my 25-year high school reunion and reconnect with friends I haven't seen in nearly that long. One of the best parts of the reunion was meeting again as adults and finding that some of the people I most related to are ones that I barely knew in high school. And that my best friend from high school was still my best friend from high school.
It wasn't a bad year; but it was a year heavy with outside clutter and aching, and I'm glad to see it go. This year there will be more hikes, more board games, more quiet evenings at home, more laughter, and much, much less drama. This year our oldest will graduate and go to college. My daughter will grow as tall as I am. My youngest will lose his babyish "r" and "w" sounds. This year when the dogwoods and redbuds are flowering, we'll drive my parents up to the mountains, because they'll only be a minute down the road.
This year—I know, I can feel it—the joys will be far more memorable than the sadnesses. It's a brand new decade, after all.