Good-bye, 2020. And Good Riddance.

The last time I saw my youngest grandchild, he was just learning to walk. He fell down a lot and dropped onto all fours and crawled when he really wanted to get someplace in a hurry. Though he understood many words, he could say only a few. He mostly ate small bites of soft food because not all his baby teeth were in. Fast forward ten months. Oliver runs and climbs now. He can make ten (or more!) foul shots in a row on his Little Tykes basketball goal. He can sing all the words to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” And he can chew even the toughest meat with the best of them.

Oliver and his big sister live in Colorado. Josephine has also learned lots of new things, like how to read, since I saw her last March. And while it’s wonderful to Facetime with them and all my kids and grandkids, it’s not the same as being able to see and hear and—most of all—to touch them in real life.

That’s my takeaway from 2020, which I don’t hesitate to declare the worst year EVER.

In the great scheme of things, nothing terrible happened to me personally except that my dog died. I didn’t get sick, nor did anyone in my family. I didn’t lose my job. (A writer with a phone and an internet connection can work from anywhere.) I didn’t run out of food. I didn’t even run low on toilet paper.

Yet weirdness and sadness seemed to permeate everything.

My first newspaper column in 2020 bore the headline “Looking at 2020 with 20/20 vision.”

In it, I wrote these words: “I hope we can begin to see clearly again. Think rationally. Respond to difference of opinion with civility and grace. I hope Americans will start behaving as though we’re on the same team, because heaven knows we have enough real foes without treating each other like enemies.”

Naïve, wasn’t I?

In the 66 years I’ve been on this earth, I’ve never seen Americans more divided or more irrationally angry at one another. You would think with coronavirus as a common enemy, we would come together to try to defeat it.  But no. We have those who believe Covid-19 is an out-of-control killer, backed up by the evidence of more than 300,000 deaths and hospitals throughout the nation filled to capacity. We have those who continue to call it a hoax. We have maskers and anti-maskers. We have people who behave like it’s 2019, shopping and partying and going out to eat and standing jam-packed in church, seemingly without a care in the world. We have people sequestered at home, reluctant even to stroll down the driveway to the mailbox.

And now a chunk of downtown Nashville has been blown to smithereens by a car bomb. It’s impossible not to be happy that 2020 is behind us.

The good news is there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The cavalry has arrived. In our community and across the nation, medical workers and nursing home residents and staff are receiving the Covid vaccine. In a matter of months, we’ll all get a turn to roll up our sleeves so that schools and stores and restaurants and places of worship and amusement parks and playgrounds and gyms and libraries and museums can open just like in the good old days. Graduations and birthday parties and family reunions and vacations and weddings and even funerals can be “normal” again.

To make those things happen, we must stop viewing Covid-19 as a political issue. We must all commit to wear masks and socially distance and wash our hands. And we must commit to receive both rounds of the vaccine when it’s offered.

Here’s to herd immunity. Here’s to 2021.

(January 2, 2021)