The kitchen may smell like Christmas; the air may ring with carols and “Jingle Bells”; nativities may greet me each morning; presents may rest under the tree. For many this year, the similarity to other Christmases ends there.

“Throw the 2020 calendar away…” “Stay up until 12:01 a.m. on New Year’s Eve to be sure another year has finally arrived….” Sentiments abound about discarding this year and heading toward 2021. Realistically we know that it will take more than a new number to create a new security against the virus. The vaccine is here, so optimism is practical. Next Christmas might be back to each person’s normal.

While our life has been impacted like everyone else, 2020 was certainly not all bad for the Austin family. We welcomed two babies, Gage and Libby, our fourth and fifth great grandchildren; for that reason alone, it was a good year. A few of the young adult grandchildren contracted COVID-19 but seem fine now. Two, thinking it was the regular flu, unknowingly had it in February before it was scary. We had our pod of friends who were as cautious as we, so isolation was not too distasteful. Distant cousins and friends have been more frequent callers, as have I.

All in all, it could have been worse, and I am thankful that my close friends and family have been spared the dread of the virus. The question becomes, how will next year be? Do we start making plans for the coming year as if we can get on with life? No one knows even the immediate future; however, life creeps by for us grandparents at breakneck speed, so yes, we make plans. My mantra has become, “I’m too old to put life on hold.” Each year another 1959 high school classmate dies. One died a few weeks ago, and one is in hospice with no hope of another Thanksgiving or Christmas, neither a result of Covid. 

Caution will certainly prevail, but plans are headed for the calendar. We may have to rearrange dates or postpone events, but planning with an eye on cancellation deadlines indicates hope that regular routines will resume. Our every-other-year family reunion in North Carolina, which was scrubbed last year, has a new date. More cousins are putting it on their calendars and reserving rooms because this year has allowed reflection time about how much family means to us and how fragile life can be. Taking each other and time for granted can cause regrets. As I continue to age, I want to look back with few regrets.

I recently heard the Tim McGraw country song, “Live Like You Were Dying.” The words haunted me, meaningful words to motivate a better me. Couple the words of the song with my frequent reflecting this year and I have resolved to consciously add things in my daily hours, even if I need to put notices on my phone to remind me. Establishing new habits requires more than good intentions. Some of the chorus says, “And I loved deeper, And I spoke sweeter, And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.” It continues, “And he said, ‘Someday I hope you get the chance, To live like you were dying,’” Knowing I had only a short time left might cause me to realign my priorities, so why should I put off the best side of me simply because the future is uncertain?

My calendar will have a list of people to connect with each month, either by phone or card. I want to be more aware of birthdays and anniversaries. I plan to visit local friends more, make time for coffee breaks or lunch, invite more friends over. Since I enjoy baking, sharing those goodies should be enjoyable. In other words, my resolution is to be more thoughtful and more generous with my time. A shared experience with those who live alone, those who need a helping hand, those in my family circle might change the direction of one day for them, and that would insure a worthy day for me.

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