Room for Optimism

Last Year and Next

By Marylyn Cork

I am sitting here on a bright sunny day assessing my past, present and future.  (I like to know where I’ve been, where I’m at, and what I have to look forward to—good or bad.)

By the past, I mean the year that’s gone. I don’t think it’s mourned by anybody.

In many ways, 2020 was the most tumultuous year I ever lived through. So far, though, I’ve outwitted COVID-19, and so have those I love most in this world. No doubt, that’s in large part because most of us have tried to abide by the precautions as much as humanly possible.

I didn’t live the year entirely alone, as I had envisioned. In August, my eldest son and his wife decided to build a new house on a piece of property that used to be mine, and sold their old home in a red-hot real estate market in record time. They’ve been living in my basement ever since. It’s been a good arrangement for the three of us and is likely to last quite some time yet, since those responsible for erecting the new dwelling have been in no hurry. Thus, I’ve had no chance to feel alone. Instead, I’ve been well-coddled and looked after. I’ve gardened when the weather allowed, and have read a great number of books—which I always do, anyway.

I don’t remember learning to read (although I haven’t forgotten any of my struggles with math). My first-grade teacher, Miss Hartman, taught me phonics, I know, but I think I just inhaled when I stepped into her classroom and the alphabet shaped itself into words. My mother gets a lot of credit, too, because she read to my sisters and me—and I had many teachers along the way who also encouraged my love of reading.

Some of the books I’ve enjoyed this year include a collection of children’s classics that I bought long ago for my own children. I can also recommend Dark Rivers of the Heart, by Dean Koontz; much of the work of Tom Clancy; Becoming, by Michelle Obama, especially the last half; Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Sharra; The House in the Sky, a memoir of being held captive for more than a year in Somalia; and We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffins.

That last one is a heartbreaker, but it’s one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read.

My great-nephew in the English Department at Louisiana State University is taking his students through a study of ethnicity this fall, and sent me his reading list. Thus, I am now embarked on learning about the sins of the white race as seen through the eyes of minorities.

Why don’t authors write funny books anymore? They are so hard to find. Is it that life is just too grim? Or westerns?

In addition, I’ve re-read a vast collection of mysteries. They and history are my favorite genres.

For a change of pace, I’m enjoying Gonzaga basketball on my son’s TV set (love that team and its coach, Mark Few), and I’ve even gained a good bit of long-lost appreciation for professional football.

Unfortunately, I’ve missed seeing my grandchildren and especially the great-grands, who are scattered from hell to breakfast, as the saying goes. My children all live close.

Also on the negative side, I’ve had a mild ischemic stroke and abdominal surgery. Neither set me back much. Right now, I’m still recovering from the surgery.

I had a lovely Thanksgiving with my housemates (Christmas hasn’t yet arrived as I write this). I’m looking forward to the new year. Perhaps COVID will be under control by spring, perhaps the country won’t be punished by record storms of various kinds. Perhaps, in 2021, we will become a united nation at peace with itself again. Perhaps my health will hold up awhile yet. I’d like to live long enough to wrap up a project I’ve been working on for just about forever.

Perhaps. There’s room for optimism—that’s all we’ve got going for us, really.

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