By Joe Rector

Good-bye 2020! I’m glad you’re gone. The past year has been one of the worst that I have spent in my life. Others with whom I’ve talked feel the same way, and too many experienced the loss of loved ones to this pandemic during the year. That makes my squawking about being stuck at home sound more than a little petty. Still, I remember past winters that tried my patience and spirits as well.

The mumps was a disease with which we older folks dealt. My brother Jim and I had them at the same time, and our poor mother fell ill with them as well. A throat that was so sore it hurt just to swallow saliva was one downside. Daddy worked split shifts, so my mother’s parents came to stay with us. I’m not sure how they kept from being infected. Having energy enough to play for a few minutes quickly gave way to feeling tired, achy, and feverish.

Nearly every kid in school came down with cases of the measles, either the full-blown version or the 3-day variety. A rash covered our bodies, and a fever accompanied that. We were confined to bed and, in general, felt lousy. A young child can only lie in bed for just so long before he turns grumpy and moody. At that age, children still enjoy school and want to be in the classroom with friends every day. To make things even worse, no television or reading was recommended as those activities could cause harm to young eyes.

Jim contracted hepatitis when he was in elementary school. His eyes and skin both had a yellow tint, and he was a sick puppy. He had no appetite, and weight fell off him in no time. I realized the danger of the disease by watching the faces of my parents. They were scared for Jim’s return to good health and the lasting effects of hepatitis. All I knew is my best friend and playmate was confined to bed for weeks. I worried about him and missed my twin.

The winters of 1965, 1996, and 2003 were brutal. In those years, my dad, mother, and brother passed. Going through holidays without them for the first time brought nothing but heartbreak and a sense of pessimism. Watching those persons we loved waste away from the attacks of cancer eroded my faith in something bigger than myself. It was only as I got far enough away from the pain that I realized that, in fact, a God was walking with me every painful step.

The fact is that this shutdown of life that we’ve experienced for the last year hasn’t been all bad. We’ve discovered that home is that safe place that we all need. The rest of the world might be crawling with Covid-19, but home has, thus far, been a place where we can escape the danger.

Many families have strengthened during this time. Without a doubt, times have arisen when family members have driven each other crazy. However, when crises have arisen, it’s those same people in the household that offer the support and comfort. Some parents and children have learned new respect for each other as they’ve been forced to remain in the close confines of home.

Let’s hope 2021 sees the end of this cursed pandemic. At the same time, let’s hope we have learned a bit more compassion and appreciation for each other. Bad things will continue to occur in our lives, but perhaps we learned to better handle them.

Be well this year, wear a mask, wash your hands, and defeat this killer once and for all. Then we can once again gather for fellowship and activities.