In January of 2011, I was at an exhilarating point in my life. I was in the first three months of a new relationship with my now wife, halfway to an MBA, and getting a new company off the ground. Given all of the time-related 2020 jokes, the experience feels like a hundred years ago. It also feels like yesterday.
Staring at the calendar, this January 6th, the year of our Lord 2021, I’m blinking.
Ten years ago, today, around noon, I received a call from my mom. She had been crying. She told me that my father had died that morning as they were having their coffee. He asked her what time it was. She turned to look at the clock. As she turned back, he fell out of his chair, lifelessly.
There was a flight home to El Paso. A funeral and wake orchestrated and paid for by our Church. Reconnecting with friends who came out of the woodwork to be supportive. Funeral homes and obituaries and lingering family grievance. Taking down the Christmas tree as my mom and aunt watched, none of us quite knowing what to say, but knowing that the experience was profoundly affecting. Leaving my mother behind to fend for herself as I continued my life in Pittsburgh, not knowing how the future would play out.
It was a year of blinks. My car was t-boned while parked in front of my grandmother’s house in February. My mom had a heart attack in March, passing days before her 60th birthday in April. I returned to the place where I grew up in May to deal with the estate issues and informally say goodbye to my childhood. My grandmother fell in June, resulting in a fractured hip that contributed to her death in September. My attempts to blow off steam through pick-up flag football in October ended in a shredded knee, followed by surgery on 11/11/11 and a blood clot that had me thinking that 2011 might take me with it, too. After six weeks of crutches, I was allowed to walk again on December 23rd.
So many blinks.
That year astounds me. I struggle to fathom how something that feels so far away can feel like yesterday. It’s hard for me to understand that I had professional advancement, academic success, and continued on the path to a happy marriage while marinating in sadness and grief. And it is so surreal to remember snippets of that year, both high and low, as if they’re random scenes of film on the cutting room floor.
A series of loosely-connected blinks.
I know it’s easy to thumb our noses at the year we just lived. The experience is the embodiment of why “may you live in interesting times” is a curse. And yet, like so many other parts of our past, we’ll one day look back on it with fondness. We’ll marvel at how it “feels like yesterday.”
My mom had two lines she said often.
“These are the good-old-days” and “don’t wish your life away.”
She was right. It’s all just a blink.