It’s been a strange year. But I can’t think of a person on the planet that probably hasn’t already said that.
The end of December of 2019 was an awesome time.
I just now realized how awesome it was as I sit here writing these thoughts. People still traveled freely all over the world, there were problems of course but the economy was booming, jobs were plentiful, America was producing so much and it felt like this could be the start of a grand new era in world history.
Well, then came January of 2020. I was excited to be able to travel back to my old stomping grounds in the Pacific Northwest. The USS Pittsburgh was being inactivated and I was going to able to help send the crew off as the outgoing President of the Pittsburgh Navy League. I flew to Seattle and drove in the snow to the Kitsap Naval Submarine Base. Checking in to the Bachelor Officer’s Quarters was a rush of memories. It was like being back in uniform one more time.
The submarine base was the place where I made Chief and later Chief Warrant Officer. It was also the place where I presented my nephew Artie with my dress “Dolphins” from back in the day. He qualified on the Alabama and we did the ceremony on the submarine monument outside of the building where I became a Master Training Specialist.
The day of the ceremony was also a snowy day but we were all packed into the auditorium at the Keyport Submarine Museum. That place is amazing. I spent a number of hours later going through it and reading every placard for every exhibit.
I was blessed to be part of the ceremony thanks to the efforts of the ship’s commanding officer.
There were a lot of hugs and handshakes and people from Pittsburgh mixed with people from all over the country that had come to say goodbye. I will always be grateful for that small role.
Saturday night, we went to the Horse and Cow to celebrate. There were so many people inside, you could barely move. But I had a great time with brothers who shared the same background. It was more like being home than any place I can remember in a very long time.
Sunday, I traveled by ferry and as we rounded the bend from Bremerton, the sun came out.
What a treat. The mountain ranges cleared their cloud cover and you could see Mount Rainier as clear as day. People were packed on the front observation deck taking pictures and I was asked by more than a few people to take their pictures with their cell phones. I was more than happy to help.
After leaving the Ferry, I parked my car and walked on the Waterfront. Thousands of people were out taking advantage of a rare sun drenched day. A lot of people from around the area mixed with a large number of people from the Far East. Having lived in Hawaii and traveled all over the Pacific, I can recognize people by their facial features and mannerisms with a pretty good degree of accuracy. By belief at that time was there was a larger amount of Chinese people there than I remember from the last time I visited many years ago.
I chose to eat at one of my old haunts on the waterfront where for enough money, you can eat king crab legs from Alaska. Since Seattle is so close to the Gulf of Alaska, you at least have the illusion that your food is fresh and has never been frozen. As I gorged myself, I looked around the restaurant. Again, nearly every table was packed with people that had Chinese features.
In the back of my mind, I was thinking about a story I had read on line about a mysterious virus that had suddenly blossomed in a faraway place called Wuhan China. The reports I saw made it look like some kind of government experiment gone horribly wrong. I will confess that after a while, being around so many people who might be from China, I was becoming a bit paranoid.
It didn’t help that the next day on the non-stop flight to Pittsburgh, the man across the aisle from me also was probably a Chinese national. I prayed a lot then fell asleep.
The next few weeks were mostly normal. My calendar shows that I went to a number of church and Navy League meetings. In fact I was teaching classes at an area business when the President announced travel restrictions and started sounding the alarm about the threat this new virus posed. The country would continue lurching along as more and more cases reached our shores and spread.
February was a full month of teaching and preaching. I only got to sing at my Mom’s group home one time because of my schedule. Then came March and suddenly everything changed. Schools closed. Mom’s nursing home was restricted and we were not allowed to visit in person. I would not see her again for four more months. The country was in shock and all of the promises of a better life were washed out as the markets responded and jobs went on hold.
Mom left us at 4:40 AM on August 14. The next few weeks were surreal as we all tried to come to grips with the loss and what became a new reality.
Now it’s late December. The whole world is stumbling along. The outcome of the election will forever be a stain on the country. The return to normal seems to be more complicated every day. A new strain of the virus is taking advantage of the globalization that some longed for in the good old days. I feel blessed to have lived the life I have up to this point. I have traveled more than some and still have most of my health. The sun is shining and despite the cold air, it feels pretty nice.
I used to hate crowds. In this new world, there are days when I miss them. It will be nice someday to be able to walk into a large event with too many people and none of us wearing masks. It will also be nice to have children singing in a church and playing with abandon in a park. I truly believe we will see those days again.
But I honestly wish I could say that mankind has learned something. Until we get to the root cause of all of this, I do not believe we have. My deepest sadness right now is that the “leadership’ of this country will not have the will or the ability to ask those hard questions of the people who more than likely caused it. That leaves us vulnerable to an event that may be even worse. I would hate to be the one who would have to explain that to God on judgment day.