January 2nd, 2019
Dear Daddy —
Our first full year without you has come to an end. 2018 was, well, an adventure, I suppose, as every year is. It’s become popular on social media to declare an entire year a “fail,” or an “epic fail,” meaning that that year is somehow cursed, and that either the population of the universe should be given another year to replace it (the logistics of this are not discussed), or that it should be wiped from the history books. Such declarations usually begin on about the 2nd of January. I’m sure, somewhere on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, someone has already deemed 2019 to be a dud which should be cast into the waste bin reserved for products that failed quality control testing.
Facebook, Twitter, Instragram… you probably don’t recognize those terms, although they were invented during your lifetime. You would have had no time for such foolishness. You also, I’m sure, never participated in water cooler conversations in the office. I’ve no doubt you considered water coolers unsanitary, to begin with–sharing water with all of those other people, whose mouths had been Heaven-knows-where doing Heaven-knows-what! I know you didn’t drink beer or whiskey with the rest of the boys on Tinian. Indeed, you gave all your allotment of whiskey to the flight crew–a year’s worth at one time–and they burned down a Quonset hut.
In short, you weren’t a gossip or a party-goer. You weren’t one for casual conversation. You could talk all day, but it had to be about Very Important Topics–those being physics, mathematics, and people you grew up with.
So a lot of the power of social media would have been lost on you. It’s beloved by people who just have to know the latest, most salacious details. And they don’t have to be accurate. You might have enjoyed a fraction of it, given time to play with it, but it came too late in your life.
I don’t believe in declaring years failures. There were certainly things about 2018 that I did not like, not least that you were not here to help us hold things together; but a year is a year. It’s an opportunity to do something productive, to make the good outweigh the bad.
In 2018, we…
Got two more bathrooms working in your house.
Got central air conditioning installed.
Saw Mother’s electric bills plummet because the house now had a working furnace and wasn’t being heated by energy-hogging space heaters.
Got the well fixed so that the pipes stopped spitting air.
Emptied about 75% of the basement and began to be able to use it to support living in the house.
Got four hens, built a chicken coop and run, and now don’t have to buy eggs.
Saw Christian finish his first year of college, in the course of which he made the Dean’s List and was accepted to the Bachelor of Fine Arts program in acting.
Saw Ethan get his first full-time job.
Finalized plans for the deeds to all your properties. 2019 will bring the signing of the deeds, we hope.
Cleared substantial areas of your property–but not nearly all we need to clear!
Worked an election campaign–our candidate lost.
Was told of the impending end of a part-time consulting job I’ve worked for 18 years. [It’s September 2019 now, and I still have that job. Priorities shift.]
Lost our beloved cat, Oreo. We don’t know exactly how old she was, but she was an adult when we adopted her, 17 and a half years ago.
Wrote at least a quarter of a million words, some of which will result in actual income.
Sold my first prose story to a major publishing house (I’ve sold a handful to small presses). As of this writing, I’m not allowed to announce that publicly. [As of this publishing, I am. It’s here.]
Lost one of my co-workers while he was fighting a fire.
Reached the 30th anniversary of my employment with Howard County, MD.
Published my 12th Book through FireBringer Press.
Became an “empty-nester,” living with Renee, and now one cat and one dog, in a ten-room house that feels very empty, despite the fact that we lament daily that there’s not enough room for “all the stuff.”
Seen Mother decide to stop driving. With all the resultant anxiety, I’m not sure I prefer the voluntary surrender to the fight you gave me a few years ago.
A quiet year for us? I don’t know. It doesn’t feel incredibly productive to me, but I suppose it would appear so to others. It’s been a year of big changes, of growth, of frustrations. Changes really upset some people, just because they’re changes. That makes some people very, very hard to reason with, speak to, or even be around. But life is change. Without change, you’re dead. So I guess we’re very much alive, if awfully tired of absorbing all the negative emotions of those around us who don’t deal well with change.
Those around us can be exhausting. You dealt with it by working too hard and never trifling with anyone’s feelings. Indeed, you thought feelings were a troublesome luxury item. Your father was an introvert. He was miserably unpleasant when he was surrounded by many people. When he was alone with you, he was a pretty nice guy. (That was my experience. Yours varied.) You said he would run and hide, as a child, when visitors came to the house.
I know how he felt. I’ve gotten, over the course of the past few years, to the point where, no matter how much I like them, people just exhaust me. I feel I’m not meeting their expectations of me, and that makes me defensive. I don’t want to avoid them, but… I want to avoid them. It made this year’s New Year’s party a chore. I was glad to see everyone, but keeping up the emotional energy needed to at least try to make them feel welcome? That made me want to run and hide in a dark closet somewhere.
Is this what it feels like to get old?