A Goodbye Letter to 2020

Dearest 2020,

I knew you were trouble from the start.

While I am grateful for myriad things – extra one-on-one time with my father, a slower pace at home, my own health and the health of my husband and sons – I am mostly still very mad at you. I will work through it eventually, and you won’t be around to see it. Today is your last day.

Many people started the year with a hefty amount of optimism, but I didn’t. It was in the tank by December, so my biggest task, or so I thought, was to muscle through a deeply personal trauma and hopefully have my father around for another calendar year.

Not only did I lose Dad in September and Grandpa Thomas in November, but you made life even more problematic with a pandemic. Talk about curveballs! Every day brought another dose of uncertainty. You want to mess with a perfectionist with control issues? GIVE HER DAILY DOSES OF UNCERTAINTY.

I won’t deny the positives that were born out of that time. Chuck was home more often than not. (All those porch days were a gift, I admit.) We had a few good boat days and early morning fishing trips. We celebrated birthdays and saw our friends. The weather this year has been one of the highlights – we’ve had all four seasons! I’m grateful for that.

But I have to tell you, 2020 – I’d give it all back to you if it meant I could have Dad back. I’d make the trade. I know that’s not how it works, but that’s how I feel.

Two nights ago you gave us your last full moon. It was gorgeous. Big and bright, like a flood light in the sky.

Today, however, I woke up to a rainy drizzle, and I don’t think we’ll see the sun all day. It feels like one more stab. I don’t know if I can stay up late enough to see you go. You robbed me this year. You robbed a lot of people. The sooner I go to sleep, the sooner you’ll be gone.

I know 2021 won’t be everything I want it to be, at least not at first. We are still in the woods, still wandering around looking for the path to lead us out of this COVID mess. I hear you, though, telling me to learn the lessons from this year and let the hardships make me better, but I’m telling you NOT YET. I need a little more time. One day, when I’m not so bitter, I will likely view you as a transformative year, not a destructive one. I’ll declare that 2020 was the year I learned [insert lesson here] and it will fuel my personal and spiritual growth. I’ll be sure to report back and give you proper credit.

For now, I’m done with you. I’m worn out. You won. You broke something in me, and since I haven’t found the exact location of the crack, I can’t patch it yet. I’m the kind of tired a nap won’t fix.

Do me a favor and tell your successor to take it easy on my family and me. My friends, too, for good measure. Tell 2021 to come in slowly, tenderly, like a new mother checking on her sleeping baby. Take a peek, then close the door gently. LEAVE US BE.

And if 2021 is going to be worse, then forget everything I said. Those porch days with my husband were really wonderful. I’ll always cherish the long drives with Dad after radiation. I’m glad Mom finally got her hip replaced. I’m grateful my kids are healthy and happy. I still have my pets, my best friends, and a lovely home from which to view sunsets.

Interestingly, the last time I photographed the moon was December 12, 2019, the day I put Mom on a plane to California to be with Dad in the hospital. Little did we know then, and little may we know now.

A Full Moon in December

It has been a full week fraught with surprise, worry, and anticipation. We are near the end of our fall semester, which means tests and papers and sorting grades, and then I came down with an upper respiratory infection suddenly. (It’s not the flu, praise God. I got tested.)

And then my father had a medical emergency on the other side of the country, followed by a midnight trip to the emergency vet for Salem just last night.

So much came at us at once, and every day since Saturday has felt too heavy to carry. I’m low on sleep, so I’m pacing myself.

Then I saw the moon, and it was so bright that it lit up the entire neighborhood. For the first time in a long while, I grabbed my camera, full of inspiration. (I’ve missed that feeling, that pull to take photos and capture something in the moment. Honestly, it’s been a long time.)

Photographing the moon is tricky. You cannot rely on auto settings or a tripod. You have to know exactly how to account for distance, darkness, and the high contrast of a bright moon.

Using the Nikkor 55-200 mm lens, I set my Nikon 5300: ISO 100, shutter speed 1/125th, aperture f/8. Then I dug my elbows into my sides and snapped.

Full moon on Dec. 11, 2019, 8 p.m. EST. Nikon 5300/Nikkor 55-200 mm. Setting: ISO 100, shutter speed 1/125th, aperture f/8

It could be clearer, and, truthfully, I wish I’d captured it earlier in the night when it appeared even bigger. But, it is was it is, and I am pleased.

With Advent underway, I can’t help but feel extra pensive. More than usual, even! This is a season of waiting, but after this week, I feel like I’ve waited beyond my portion – waiting for phone calls, waiting for updates, waiting for doctors to finally work their way around to me, to my dad, to Salem.

Mercifully, this moon made me stop and take a breath. It pushed pause on my list of worries. It reminded me that there is much more going on in the world than I am privy to and still, I am not forgotten.

How Christmas is 13 days away, I cannot understand. I swear it was just Halloween. More than ever, I need to unburden our schedule and intentionally slow down. This moon was just what I needed to remind me that time doesn’t have to go by so quickly.