Friday, December 31, 2021

The “Long Year” of 2020-2021

What is there to say at the end of 2021? It has been a long year. This was not one of those years that just "zipped by." At least, it doesn’t seem that way to me.

In one sense it feels like the surreal year of 2020 hasn't ended yet. The first year of this decade started out "normally" (as far as we first-worlders knew). There was some new virus in China, or something like that... it was hard to gauge the news regarding it: A few doctors expressed concerns but, after being visited by the police, they seemed to change their minds. In any case, most Westerners didn't see what was coming.

The PANDEMIC. This capricious new disease - ironically named Covid-19 (since it first appeared at the end of 2019) - began spreading all over the world. Often, people who caught this highly contagious virus developed only a mild illness, with few discernible symptoms. Others got sick with a pneumonia-like illness, and/or other kinds of acute respiratory distress that required hospitalization. A small percentage of people - especially among the elderly and others with preexisting medical conditions - died from the disease or from health complications which it contributed to and aggravated. Covid-19 was easy to catch and to pass on to others, difficult to predict in severity, and overwhelming for hospitals that were overfilled with seriously ill people and lacking resources to treat them. The West, and other advanced or advancing technological societies, were caught off guard. A strategy of putting virtually everyone into a state of quarantine (“lockdown”) was adopted in a unprecedented way. By the end of March, my country - the United States of America - was, basically, closed. But everyone knows about this (and the complexity and controversy surrounding it) so there is no need to rehash it in detail.

Now we are ringing in 2022, and Covid-19 is still around. The Pandemic is still in the news every day, as the virus continues to mutate and generate uncertainty. We now have several versions of a vaccine, and millions and millions of doses have been administered. A third (and now a fourth) booster shot is being recommended for maximum protection against the new Covid variants that keep marching onto the scene denominated with Greek letters (“Delta,” “Omicron,” …).

This has been a very serious and tragic factor of The Long Year. We know people who have gotten seriously ill, and some who have died, even in recent months from Covid and/or a variety of conditions which Covid contributed to making worse. It has become a sorrowful and potentially hazardous factor, and we still don’t know how it will all play out, or what might come next.

Since the initial emergency lockdown, events began to happen again (and events got cancelled). Businesses opened and closed. Advice regarding wearing masks fluctuated (sometimes from one week to the next). Churches restored the ordinary responsibility for Sunday Mass attendance (in the summer of 2021) but most continued to livestream daily Mass now that they had the basic tech gear in place to do it. Lots of other new methods of remote communications connection got a boost because of the Pandemic, and we continue to find them useful even when they are not necessitated by restrictions on movement and gatherings.

But on the eve of 2022, Covid-19 is still around.

We still don’t really know what might happen next. We can only do our best to be responsible in the circumstances and then … either live in constant anxiety and take refuge in whatever distractions we can find … or trust that our lives are shaped by a Wisdom greater than ourselves, a mysterious plan in which we participate but do not control, a promise of goodness and love that will ultimately give meaning to everything, that will console us and change us if we allow our hearts to be open to it.

During the Long Year, lots of events and changes have taken place in the lives of the Janaros. Our son John Paul got married, and our daughter Lucia got engaged (stay tuned for more about that - Summer 2022). Our eldest daughter Agnese graduated university, began working, but now has some kind of illness (not Covid-related) that made her quite sick and ended up hospitalizing her through Christmas. It has also given her parents a few more gray hairs, although it appears that she has a condition they will be able to resolve (or at least manage). She just got home this afternoon, armed with medications and appointments with specialists, and it was so good to see her! (Because of the ongoing Covid situation, the hospital had restrictions on visitation: one person at a time from a pool of two people, who were Eileen and our daughter Teresa - and Teresa started university in August, by the way).

Then my mother passed away on July 5 after a brief illness (not Covid). And four days later our first
grandchild, Maria Therese Janaro, was born. She is nearly six months old now, and she has already asserted her distinctive identity (and 
charm) in our familial world and beyond. It’s mysterious: my father and my mother have gone beyond this world and at the same time Maria has entered this world.

I have experienced a range of emotions much larger and more complex than I ever knew were possible. Remarkably, the pathological aspect of my “moods” has remained pretty stable, but all the changes we have seen during this Long Year have taken a toll on me physically, I think. The same pains, the same exhaustion have gained some ground in recent months. (That “other Pandemic” - Lyme Disease - may still be causing trouble.) I still take walks, photograph the countryside, and then experiment with digital art projects (something I can do in bed). I’m determined to keep going, or at least do what I can. For the moment, I am ready and hopeful to enter a new year. It is fitting to begin the year on the Octave (the eighth day) of Christmas, the culmination of the week during which we remember with singular gratitude the birth of Jesus.

We will celebrate again tomorrow the coming of the One who gives us hope in every circumstance, who gives us the courage to act and the patience to endure everything according to the challenges of this life. We know that we will all die, but He has died with us and had risen, and He stays with us. He is making all things new. So let us persevere in hope, whatever comes. Circumstances and feelings go up and down, and we can live all of these moments because He is with us and He is preparing us for a joy that will never end.

Merry Christmas Octave and Happy New Year!