New Year. New Normal.

2017 started out with so much hope. After 18 days in the hospital, most of those in the ICU, on January 4th we were on our way to rehab. Two weeks tops. Some exercises. Physical and occupational therapy. Then we were home free. A few months of recovery and it would be back to the old normal. Summer on the boat. Tailgates in the fall. Like the pneumonia never happened.

It only took a few days to ruin those expectations. 2017 turned to shit. And it stayed shit. The old normal would never happen. A few more days in the hospital for biopsies & diagnosis and it was off to chemo. A few months of chemo and it was off to hospice. A few weeks of hospice and it was all over. The old normal was gone forever, never to return.

Let the search for the new normal begin. Weeks of anxiety, PTSD, inability to leave the house. I couldn’t even watch TV or listen to music or go to the grocery store. Thank the Lord for Amazon and Tom Thumb delivery services. Thanks for UberEats, Favor & GrubHub. Thanks for Netflix & Amazon Video.

Slowly (and with much help) I began to create a new normal. Watch Netflix instead of commercial channels. I still don’t watch the news or weather much. I can but I don’t. Create new playlists on Spotify that don’t include favorite tunes. I still don’t listen to much country music. I can but I don’t. In avoiding the triggers, I avoided the despair.

Until New Year’s Eve.

I had specific plans and goals for Thanksgiving and Christmas. A trip to Vegas with friends. A trip to California with the kids. It was all good. I was flying high. Challenge accepted. Challenge met.

Until New Year’s Eve.

Budman planned for NYE. He was in DC with friends. Princess planned for NYE. She went to a couple of parties with her Bobby.

Me? I found myself at home. Alone. With Facebook. Sweet, sweet Facebook. That lovely app that never forgets and never lets you forget. Facebook reminded me that in 2015 we attended the Music City Bowl in Nashville and that we had a large time. It further reminded me that we rang in 2016 in Memphis. On Beale Street. At the Blue Note. With Queen Ann Hines. What a memory. The old normal on full display. Fun, football, music, drinks, friends. The year before that, Liberty Bowl, year before that, Texas Bowl, year before that Chik-Fil-A Bowl. It made me yearn for the old normal once more. The full weight of the loss came crashing back down all at once. Toppling all the walls I had built, seeping through the new tough skin I had been grooming, covering me in a sadness that I hadn’t fully felt in weeks, maybe months.

But the next day was 2018. A year ago was a year ago. I got up early. Showered. Went to the grocery store. Made blackeyed peas. New Year’s lunch for one. Ham, mashed potatoes, blackeyed peas. Couple of Shiners. It was good.

I enter 2018 with my eyes wide open, looking forward. I am hopeful, but realistic. I have no idea what this year will bring. It is already bringing opportunities and potential changes that I would not have considered possible even 3 weeks ago.

So Happy New Year. Welcome to the new normal.

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