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2008: What a Year! by Janet Periat

by Janet Periat

By the time you read this, it will be 2009. And what a relief! 2008 will go down as one of the most difficult years of my life. However, instead of a recap of what went wrong, I’m going to focus on what went right this year.

Number 1: My sister is happy, healing and living on her own. After brain surgery and a stroke left her mute and paralyzed in June, she is now back at home. She cooks, cleans, takes care of her cats and cares for her garden. Speech is still difficult for her, but she makes progress every day. That she is here with me and can hug me and laugh with me is my biggest gift of 2008.

Number 2: Obama won! We have  a president who can say “nuclear” and who’s as smart as a “rocket surgeon.” Not only that, we have an African-American in the White House. This is a profound step forward. Sure, he’s no miracle worker — the man is human — but  to see this kind of healing in America gets me right in the heart.

Number 3: My parents moved into a retirement home. I will repeat that. My parents moved into a retirement home. I have never seen them (or me) this happy before. After 10 scary years of denial where they lived out in the middle of nowhere, on the top of a hill, without being able to walk more than 20 steps — driving on twisty, turning roads without knowing what day it was or being able to see properly — they are now happily ensconced in a caring, wonderful senior complex. They get three meals a day (excellent food, too) and they have weekly laundry and housecleaning services. Their best friends also live there. Dad is thrilled with all the “fresh meat” — i.e., new people who haven’t heard his stories. And they are some of the younger “kids” of the community. Dad was at breakfast the other morning with seven guys ranging from ages 92-98; Dad was the baby at 86. Mom, who rarely got out of the house before, is now playing Password with her neighbors and winning chocolate. I have never seen them like this. Relaxed, happy and all their needs met without me having to do it for them. Huge.

Number 4: All my friends still have jobs and houses. While this economic wreckage caused by the Greedy Bank Bastards has caused untold job losses and home foreclosures, none of the people I know lost their houses or their jobs. (Knock on wood.) In fact, three of my previously unemployed friends have recently found good jobs. Even my friends in high tech are doing well. Sure, my real estate buddies are hurting and my retail friends have seen their sales drop. But everyone I know is weathering this financial storm well. And it’s making all of us focus on our spending, which is a huge positive. I mean, how many toys and animatronic gewgaws do I need? (OK, well, one. I just bought Zultan, a robotic fortuneteller. Well, hey, I’m just trying to help the economy along, one robotic fortuneteller at a time.)

Number 5: My nieces graduated from college. With all that scary news on TV lately, it’s important that we look at the good things that are going on within our own families. And I am so proud of my nieces. Nadine graduated at the top of her class and is now a geologist; she landed a job within two weeks of graduating. Camile is now a certified dental hygienist and is working in a dental office. They are both shining examples of how hard work pays off.

Number 6: I didn’t get shot. Or stalked. Last week, one block from my house, I heard gunfire erupt. Turns out a stalker shot a mother and himself — you might have heard about it on the news. At first we were told it was a home invasion gone wrong, which totally freaked me out. That house used to be my brother’s house. On TV I saw cops shooting from my great-grandmother’s porch (which was next door to my brother’s — both houses were sold three years ago). A friend witnessed the SWAT team drive a Humvee down the driveway, jump out with guns and rescue the victim’s two children. The police cordoned off my street; helicopters flew overhead all day. I watched newscasts that were happening live from the next block. Absolutely surreal and way too close to home. A horrible tragedy, but one that makes you realize how damned lucky you are just to be alive.

Number 7: I could come up with six positive things about 2008. Yep, this was pretty crappy year, folks. I never want to go through another one like it. Seeing my darling sister in that hospital bed in agony, unable to speak or move, was the most horrible thing I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve lost 15 percent of the value of my house, which was a giant chunk of my down payment. Many of our children died in Iraq and Afghanistan. And while Obama’s in the White House, America is in the hole to the tune of $10,666,660,834,530.12 as of Dec. 1, 2008, according to the U.S. National Debt Clock. With 305,195,923 people, that’s approximately $34,000 per person.

Yet I hope that in the future, when I think of 2008, I will remember hearing my sister laugh aloud for the first time after surgery. I hope I will remember the tears of hope and relief in my friends’ eyes (and mine) as Obama made his acceptance speech. And I hope I remember, despite all the crap that happened to me and my family, we still came out OK. Even if we didn’t gain anything this year but a new perspective and the promise of change in coming years, sometimes hope is the most powerful and lasting gift of all.

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©2008, Janet Periat

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