Today is the last day of 2011.
As I generally do every year at this time - as most of us probably do - I fall into a reflective mood, looking back upon the events of the old year. It’s easy enough to do: The media do their best to assist, offering up lists of the year’s disasters, celebrity deaths, “best of” lists, “worst of” lists, et alia. And there’s certainly plenty to reflect upon.
Twenty-eleven saw a monster tsunami demolish the northern coast of Japan, causing a fearsome nuclear accident at Fukushima that rivaled or exceeded Chernobyl; regime change throughout the Arab Muslim world; the end (for now) of the U.S. military presence in Iraq; the death of Moammar Qaddafi at the hands of his countrymen; the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs.
In this past year, as with all other past years, people were born and people died. The rest of us continued to go about our merry business of occupying real estate and converting oxygen and food into carbon dioxide, water, and shit, each in our own fashion.
Most years - for most of us, at least - are an accumulation of small events, the incrementalia of daily life, with a few items of greater impactfulness thrown in to help keep us from becoming too complacent.
For me and The Missus, 2011 was mostly a year of those small events. But both our daughters tried to keep things interesting, throwing in a few bigger changes. Early in the year, Elder Daughter stepped off the corporate merry-go-round to pursue her interests in performing, experimental theatre, and the graduate-level study of same. And in the fall, the Mistress of Sarcasm moved away from Atlanta (away from us!) to pursue her metals and jewelry muse and live an intensely rural life in the wilds of northwestern Connecticut. Too bad U-Haul doesn’t offer frequent driver miles.
And yet, for us 2011 will be remembered as a year with a Significant Event, the kind that comes along infrequently, unpredictably. The kind that divides life into two parts: Before and After.
It was the year of Eli’s stroke.
A stroke is one of the Big Three Scary Illnesses, along with cancer (in its myriad forms) and heart attack. A big one will kill you as swiftly as the fall of the headman’s axe; little ones can slowly rob you of your mind and mobility. The ones in between can render you a shambling invalid or merely add a hitch to your gait. You may recover, but you are forever changed, inevitably diminished in ways sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious.
Eli had his stroke early Christmas morning, a perverse gift. It has paralyzed him, but mercifully left his mind and sense of humor mostly intact. He is able to swallow. He can speak. And with luck and hard work - and the loving care of Toni, his wife of nearly 21 years - he will regain at least some of what was so suddenly and cruelly taken from him.
It is early in the recovery process: Eli’s rehabilitation has only just begun. The only certainty is that 2012 will hold new challenges for all of us who love him.
But enough of our problems. We’re still playing golf on the right side of the course, the one where you don’t see the pointy end of the tee. And our wish for you in 2012, Esteemed Reader, is for a year in which you are able to appreciate the countless miracles and blessings of everyday life - for a year of happiness and health, without limit to any good thing.