This cartoon appeared in The Union in December of 2001. We were only a few months removed from the horror of 9/11, and everyone was still trying to cope with the new reality, knowing that life would never be the same. Welcome to the 21st Century.
I was not immune to those feelings, so I spent a lot of time out and about, looking for answers. On the day in question, I attended my friend Dan O’Neill’s father’s wake. Irish Catholics really know how to send a departed spirit on to the great beyond. Singing, dancing, laughing, remembering all that was good about the person. One of their favorite sayings is “may you be in heaven a half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.” And with the Irish, it’s essential to distract St. Peter with a lot of noise so he doesn’t notice all those broken commandments.
Next it was on to a party at contractor Bruce Ivy’s office in Grass Valley. Bruce had taken some of the cartoons I did lampooning the sometimes bizarre and contradictory behavior of our various planning departments, blown them up and pasted them to the walls as decorations. This was during the infamous NH2020 period, but the animosity usually displayed was nowhere to be found. Bruce put on a magnificent feast and people from all walks of life were welcome to partake in the festivities.
As the sun began to set, I found myself at Seaman’s Lodge, where Ridge musicians Jay Frais and Mary Barry hosted a potluck hoedown. More food, more friends, and like I said in the cartoon, I won a cactus in the raffle. This was especially cool because my spouse (who was working and couldn’t attend any of these events) loves all things cacti and succulent.
As I left the last party, a gentle snow began to fall, covering the twin cities in a silent white blanket. And at that moment, I knew there was still hope for the uncertain future, despite the horrors of September and the wars to come.
In the years that followed, I spent most of my time caring for elderly parents. My father’s decline began in 2002, and he passed away in 2004. My mother’s dementia did her in in 2008. And after living with us for two and a half years, we laid my mother in law to rest this past June. I still talk to them in my dreams.
This Christmas season, we confront yet another horror. Just when the rhetoric and animosity of the election was beginning to recede, a disturbed young man went off the rails and murdered his mother and a school full of innocent children. Why? We may never really know. But the event has rekindled the hatred and contempt between liberal and conservative. Instead of sober reflection, the internet and TV networks are seething with accusations of blame. Reconciliation seems farther away. Winning is what’s important.
It’s one of the reasons I haven’t posted much lately. I’m fed up with politics, with the demise of common sense and any semblance of civility. Another coming year of uncertainty and instability. Hope lives, but with each passing day you wonder if it will wither and die for lack of nourishment.
But I’m not giving up. There is so much to be thankful for. We survived the horror of eleven years ago, and we will survive the horror of last week. It begins with remembering what this season is all about. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the message of love and family, and the things that bind us together. It just takes a little effort.