2020 In Review

So. 2020. What a year, right?

What can I say that hasn’t already been said by pretty much everyone, myself included? Given that this is more than two paragraphs long, obviously I have something to say. And since I’ve decided to make this year in review an annual thing, clearly I’m going to go over it.

This has been a crazy year for everyone. A lot of it has been exceedingly difficult. A lot of it has been heart breaking. There’s also no way I’m going to be able to encapsulate everything in this one post. I can’t even hope to cover everything major. It’s been that sort of year. But I’ll cover the things that impacted me the most. And, yes, a lot of it isn’t good. But there is one bright and shining thing that is absolutely wonderful, and I’ll save that for the end because if you read my stuff, you know I like to end on the positive.

It’s funny, in a way. This time last year, I was full of optimism. As a gamer geek, I was particularly enamoured with the number 2020. In D&D, where you roll most things on a 20-sided die, rolling a 20 is a critical success (a really good thing), and I remember saying that this was the year of the double critical success. Sheesh.

I was, of course, peripherally aware of the Corona virus early in the year, as that sad thing that was going on in China. At first, that was it. It was like the sad thing going on in Australia with all those wildfires… it was awful, but didn’t really effect me on a personal level. I felt bad about it, yes, but what could I do about it?

And then it began to spread. Or, to be more precise, I began to hear about it spreading. It hit Europe, especially Italy. Then, it jumped across the ocean. It was in the US. Crap, it was in Canada.

It was in Nova Scotia.

I think it was mid-February when I really got worried. I had family contemplating a trip to Italy. I had a step father travelling to California to visit his daughter and grandkids. I worked in a job that saw me all up close and personal with people. The numbers grew as we entered March.

And then lockdown. I, like so many others, found myself out of work. Everything was closed that could be closed, especially massage therapy. But only for a few weeks, right?

Nope. Weeks dragged on. I barely left the house, aside for going for drives with my mother. I don’t even like going for drives as a general rule, unless it’s just to spend time with people, scenery is lost on me, but those drives got me out of the house. Then those ended, too.

Now. Let me state right here that I consider myself to be very, very lucky. Lucky to live in Canada. Especially lucky to live in Nova Scotia. My provincial and federal government have both been stellar at handling this. Yes, there was a brief time wen I thought I wouldn’t qualify for the emergency funding my nation decided to hand out as I was self-employed, but I was wrong. I was taken care of financially. I also live in a place where there were services such as grocery delivery that I could utilize without having to even come face to face with my delivery person. I am so lucky, and I am so grateful to those people who did the delivering. However, I also couldn’t leave the house. I have to touch too much to just go for a walk.

Then came April, and devastating tragedy. Here in Nova Scotia, a madman who I still flatly refuse to name went on a shooting rampage. Moreover, this happened in a place near and dear to my heart, close to the cottage where I spent every summer and a majority of weekends growing up. Too close for comfort to where my father and step mother lived. Terrifyingly close to where my step brother lives. It was awful, it was senseless, and it’s left scars that that community will bear for a very long time. It was the worst mass shooting Canada has ever seen, and it happened in a place of peace and beauty. To those who lost family or a friend, I grieve with you still.

And then came the news of George Floyd. Not the first black man shot down by police. Not even close. What was it about this one? Was it the straw that broke the camel’s back? I’m not sure. I don’t pretend to understand why it took this many senseless deaths for the world to start paying attention. But we did. Has it been enough? No. Not yet. Do I think things have changed? I’m not sure. It’s changed me, though. I’ve gotten more vocal about my support for black people, which in turn has led me to being more vocal in my support for people of colour, for trans rights, for LGB rights. For disabled rights. I haven’t forgotten. I hope you haven’t, either. These are lessons we need to hold onto.

In June, here in Nova Scotia at least, the lockdown was lifted. This meant a return to work. For me, at least, this came as a simultaneous huge relief and also was a cause of stress. There were a lot of changes to how we did things. More work, with a lot more stringent cleaning, a lot more caution with client intake, wearing a mask all day, making sure that my clients wore masks, making sure we didn’t leave clients waiting out in the lobby for long, different start and end times. Plus, of course, the constant fear not so much of getting sick myself (though I am terrified of that, too) but accidentally passing it on. After all, I spend an hour at atime in a small room, physically touching someone else. It’s stressful. On the other hand, I love my career. I love my clients. Getting back to helping them was fantastic.

So the summer came, and it was odd. I cut back the time I spent with my father at the cottage – which I would have cause to regret, but more on that later – and spent only one weekend there, and then a few hours later on. My sister who lives in England always spends every August here with her two precious girls and – for part of it – her husband. This year, that didn’t happen, and it was hard. I already don’t see them as much as I would like, now I didn’t see them at all.

Then came the fall. And here, we enter the part that is the hardest to write about. My father had been having back and leg pain for a number of years, now. He had been diagnosed with a condition that meant the area of his low back where the sciatic nerve (the one that goes into the leg) exits had narrowed. His pain came and went, but when it was there, it was bad. He’d been waiting on surgery to open this area up. The pain came back in September, and he moved his surgery up to October. It happened, and for the first few days his pain was gone. And then it came back.

And then it got worse. And other symptoms began popping up. Dad had also been battling what seemed like a minor case of cancer of the bladder, in so far as any cancer could be called minor. We thought it was under control. We thought it was being successfully treated. He’d even had an MRI in January and a CT scan in May in preparation for the surgery, both came back clear. Until that pain got bad.

In an MRI to check if what he had was something very different, but still serious, they discovered a large mass on his sacrum (that’s the solid bone just beneath your moveable spine). This was in mid to late October. He had to wait longer than I liked for a biopsy, but in time he got it. In more time it came back. The mass was cancer. The bladder cancer had spread. After that, everything happened fast. So terribly fast. I watched him go from being able to get around and do most of the things he did, albeit with pain, to him hardly able to get out of his chair, to him not being able to get out of bed. We were told it was Stage 4 cancer. We were told there was nothing they could do. We were told that my sister had better come home.

She did. She came home from England and got a compassionate exemption to her two week quarantine. She got to see him (though that was as far as her exemption went, she spent any time she wasn’t with him in full quarantine for the full fourteen days). I got to see him. That final week, we both visited him. We had our last fully coherant conversation on a Tuesday. I saw him twice more. On Friday, November 20, we lost him.

And it all happened so fast. It’s been a month, and there are days I still catch myself thinking things like “Oh, I need to tell Dad this” and “Crap, I haven’t gotten Dad’s Christmas gift yet” and then it all comes back.

Still. I am grateful that my sister got back. Grateful that despite a very abrupt and frightening spike in local Covid cases we were able to make it to the funeral, and so very grateful for the support from family, friends and coworkers. I truly have some wonderful people in my life. Especially the wonderful, compassionate, kick-ass clinic director I am blessed to work with.

Ah, yes, the spike. Nova Scotia had done so well. For awhile, it was one of the safest places in the world. That ended abruptly, especially here in Halifax. Numbers skyrocketed, right around the time we were planning the funeral. They’re coming back down now, but it was scary and the timing couldn’t have been worse, personally. All of this coming at the worst part of the year for me, as I do struggle with seasonal affective disorder even in the best of years.

That was a lot of doom and gloom. Earlier, I said there was one thing that keeps me from considering this year truly, unendingly awful. Given all the above, you would be correct in assuming it would have to be something major, and it is. It also happened, or started, early in the year. I just left it out because, like I said, I want to end this on a good note.

Earlier this year I made an amazing discovery. Prior to now, you will have heard me speak of my sister in the singular. Only it isn’t singular. It’s plural. In February, my father sat me down and told me that I have an older sister. Technically, half-sister, but that is not how I think of her. She is my sister. To say this came as something of a shock is rather an understatement. To some of you, I know that reading this is going to be a bit of a surprise. Imagine how I felt? I was curious. I was also absolutely happy. At no point during any of this have I felt anything but genuine joy. I gave Dad time to tell people about it, immediate family and such, and then I wrote her a letter. I explained who I was, that I had only just found out, and that while I very much wanted contact, it was entirely her choice and that I would abide by her decision. I put that letter in the mail just before lockdown.

And she replied. We began to chat via text on messenger. Slowly and cautiously at first, but with increasing regularity. We spoke via voice. We met. I met my amazing, talented, wonderful nephews.

They are family. They are loved. I am proud of each one of them. I am overjoyed to have them. The only reason I am not outright naming them here is because I try not to do that. Their presence in my life will always keep this year from being sheer awfulness. I will likely write more about them, with their permission, in the future.

And. There you have it. What a roller coaster. 2021 is, of course, right around the corner. I don’t think that the turning of the year will mean that our problems magically disappear, but I am choosing to enter this new year with hope. A vaccine is coming. And perhaps, just perhaps, we’ve all learned over this past year to be a bit more kind and a bit more wise.

Which brings me to my usual closing statement. Please be kind. Be kind to one another, be kind to yourselves, be kind in the comments. We still need as much kindness as we can get.

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