Normally, this time of year, my wife and I would be traveling to San Francisco to visit relatives. Our son, niece, and my brother’s family live in the Bay Area. For the last several Christmases we’ve vacationed there. We take in a movie each day and dine out each night. It’s the perfect getaway to celebrate the season. This year, uh … not so much. Theaters and restaurants are closed. Due to a surge in Covid-19 infections, it’s too dangerous to travel.
Currently, the pandemic explodes without restraint. 2500+ Americans die everyday from the virus. Hospitals across the country are overwhelmed. Many approach their breaking point. A triage mentality pervades choices about healthcare. And, despite the beginning rollout of vaccinations, the end is not in sight. There is no vaccine for reckless behavior.
It was a mistake to indulge in Thanksgiving get togethers. Now, the prospect of Christmas holiday travel, provides another ideal condition for the disease to spread. Family vacations are one more casualty of the epidemic. Add to that weddings, graduations, and funerals. This plague compromises our rituals. We must curtail activities that bind us in order to avoid exposure.
Last summer, we cancelled a reunion with my wife’s family. Over the last 25 years, we often vacationed together at our favorite Oregon resort. There, we forged bonds of love and family memories to last a lifetime. The carefree atmosphere of its beautiful setting helped us relax. Play replaced work routines. We shared our dreams. We celebrated life.
Looking back, my childhood seemed to revolve around annual family vacations to Yosemite National Park. My impressionable years were full of the warm associations of a happy family. My brothers and I rafted on the Merced River amidst the granite cliffs and pine forests of this national treasure. We camped in rustic tent cabins. Mom cooked meals on a cast iron wood stove. At night we told tales while sitting around an open fire. To this day, the scent of pine needles and woodsmoke still stir poignant ripples in the stream of my memory.
Yosemite, I believe, is where I first learned to dream of what life could be, should be. Those vacations eventually evolved into employment. I worked summers and Christmas breaks in the park. Then, upon freeing myself from the sticky tentacles of the Vietnam War, I dropped out of college while on the cusp of graduation. I moved to the mountains and invented a way to make my dreams come true.
Now, we bid adieu to the sad saga of 2020. The New Year, a new president, and effective vaccines provide hope against the horror of Covid-19. The extraordinary mortality rate of this epidemic need not have materialized. Simple protective measures of social distancing, personal hygiene, and the wearing of masks can minimize the danger of this disease. But leadership, particularly from the White House, failed to insist upon practical behavior.
In spite of the craziness of 2020, I am grateful. On January 11th, my grandson, Sam, turns four. His sister, Savannah, will be seven in March. At the time of my diagnosis with multiple myeloma in December of 2007, doctors were not optimistic about my future. Yet, here I am, still writing bad poetry and putting it to music. I have witnessed the marriage of my youngest son. He and his wife are the proud parents of these two happy, curious, and self-confident children.
My oldest son turned 40 this year. He has settled into a successful lifestyle in Oakland, CA as an attorney with the Environmental Protection Agency. More importantly, he has regained independence following an accident in 2002, which left him paralyzed. He still experiences life from a wheelchair, but it is on his own terms.
So, for a guy who maybe shouldn’t be here, I am thankful. I’ve seen a lot and I expect to see more, the pandemic notwithstanding.
In closing, another song: The Inventor of Dreams.