In December the TV presenters start to review the year that was. 2020 was a crazy year and unique in my life time. The presenters say this happened and that happened but it makes no sense to me and probably wouldn't to you because this was a year where we each made our own history. This was the year when I spent a lot of time alone. Time of lock down or isolation, whatever you want to call it. It was a time that went slow some days and yet at the same time seemed to go so fast with no landmarks or mile stones to show where one month finished and another began.
So what did 2020 mean to me? Well I gained a new relationship. Peter and I have known each other for more than 30 years. 30 years ago I started studying theology, a course taught through remote learning with three weekends study periods at St John's College and a week at the college mid winter. I hadn't studied since high school and was introduced to Peter as a potential tutor. He turned out to be my tutor, my study buddy and my friend. He became a family friend too. Ray was happy to have his company and I appreciated his help, I needed all the help I could get.
After I finished my diploma I saw him infrequently, for years maybe once or twice a year. We had a lot of mutual friends, an interest in the same things. End of story. I had thirteen years of looking after Ray and that took up all my time. I saw Ray decline, I struggled to keep him as well as I could, it took every ounce of energy I had. The end of this story you all know. Days of mourning and nights without sleep, trying to let go of Ray after all of those caregiving years was no easy task. And of course I had looked after my parents too. Mum outlived Ray as she always said she would, he died aged 70 and Mum aged 94. Who would have thought that possible?
I was unhappy as a widow but the years passed and somehow I got my feet back under me and made a new life for myself. I even went on a few dates but no more than two with any one person. I met a man called Lyn who was my companion for a while. He was a nice person to be with but his life had been very dysfunctional and friendship was all that he wanted. That relationship was short lived, he had leukemia which gradually got worse but we remained friends and I accepted a difficult task and visited him in hospital for the last twelve weeks of his life. He died aged 70. So I was lonely again. Peter in the meantime had married and divorced and moved away from the area.
He wanted me to visit so I did, with a highly respectable arrangement as he had his grandson and grandson's fiancée living with him. That was three years ago. I guess you could say we grew closer. Since then I have been up a couple of times to that lovely part of the State. Enter Covid and he decided for my safety he would ring me on a regular basis. That started in March and in those long periods of lockdown we talked over the whole spectrum of our lives and the lives of our families. I have enjoyed those conversations and that is where we are right now, appreciating each others companionship. No intention of extending that but he will be here for Christmas, his daughter, grandson etc are going to the other grandparents and he is coming here to be with my family.
What have I been doing with the rest of my time? The usual routine. Time just flies by, one day much like another except for the last two months when family have been in need of my help. Church is back although not as we knew it, masked, no singing, no bodily contact, shaking hands or hugging is taboo. Social distancing is hard on us old folk who have lost our partners and have children living away but we have coped. Now we are slowly coming out of our isolation and while parties and excursions are not happening coffee mornings and lunches out with social distancing and much hand washing are now taking place.
So life goes on. A different kind of normal, less social but probably more sustainable is slowly evolving. Our politicians are promising a vaccine but how reliable that will be and how long the immunity will last seems to be debatable. I don't think a lot of my peer group have faith in it. I will get immunised if that seems wise but go on my doctor's advice. My autoimmune system is not the best because of the operations I have had over the past three years so of course I am considered vulnerable. I guess I have that in common with many others.
Lions are selling cakes and puddings in our local shopping centre and I am on the roster. I have been a Lion for over 20 years now having joined it to be Ray's driver after the strokes in 1999. Never thought I would have stayed in that long but it is something I can do to help not only my community but through the various Lions Foundations people all around the world. Sight First gives sight to the blind, other Foundations help people in times of natural disasters of many kinds. Lions is world wide organisation so gives my life another dimension. I am the editor of the Facebook page dedicated to the Lions Club of Killarney-Bateau and we have people from many countries following us now.
I am over 70 and when I look back on my life it seems so trivial. I will never get a medal or get my name in the newspaper or any other honour but I have done what I could to help people, mine was not a life of note but a good life. And I have met some truly remarkable people along the way. I wish there could be a medal struck for all these wonderful people who are my heroes. No film star, famous person or well recognised strongman can compare to some of the ordinary everyday heroes I have met through the stroke journey. Our lives have made a difference whatever the world might think. Stroke survivors and caregivers you are all my personal heroes.