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Au Revoir, Arrivederci, Adios, Goodbye 2021

I’m pretty sure I can say that I’ve never looked forward to turning the calendar page quite as much as I am this year.  2021, can we just agree to part as friends??

Like a lot of relationships, there was some good – but it’s been struggle and I need to move on.  So with that, lets recap.

In January, like many of my friends, I took a punch in the gut when I learned that the happiest man I’ve ever known – a man who at least outwardly kept his smile, sense of humor and wonderful laughter in spite of everything Hurricane Irma threw at him – had lung cancer.  Nick, the world’s best friend, passed within the week.  I’m certain I’m not the only one who still has a huge hole from his passing.  Why did it have to be Nick?  He lived to bring happiness to others, and those of us who were lucky enough to know him are better people for it.  Nick will always live on in our friendships, but darn I miss him.

May be an image of one or more people, people sitting and food

Then a week later, I lost a friend, a professional acquaintance and another guy from our tight-knit little small town in an avalanche.  We are still a town in mourning from that.  Andy, what I will always remember about you was that you didn’t speak just to hear yourself talk – when you spoke, it was on something that mattered to you, and it was well thought out and completely reasonable – even when I wanted to disagree with you.  When I see our town Christmas lights, I smile in your memory.  You apparently felt strongly about those.  I’m pretty sure there will be hell to pay if anybody ever tries to change them.

That Sunday, Paul asked me to go outside and tell him if it smelled like ammonia.  Yeah, no … until later that night.  So we call the fire department and they come out, but they think we’re crazy.  And yeah, the next day, we both definitely have Covid.  I’d still give anything to smell a fresh load of laundry.

In early April, I took Sweet Miss Hailey into the vet to see if she could help ease her morning cough.  I knew the sand on our clock was running out fast the moment the vet asked me to come back to look at the x-ray.

That big round thing is a tumor on her spleen – so it was only a matter of time.  One thing that you did give me, 2021, was the gift of that awful knowledge.  I will forgive you for all else because you gave me that.  I squeezed every last drop of love in me out into Miss H over the next two weeks.  She was, for a 13-year old, healthy for the most part (OK, other than the tumor).  We took special hikes.  I never said “no” to cheddar cheese – not once.  We cuddled on the floor, and I let her lick my plate and my face. 

I lived in every moment with her.  And while I loved her for all of the years she was with us, those two weeks were – far and away – my favorite time ever with her.  I never lost sight of the fact that every single day I got with her was a gift. Sunday night, she was energetically begging with Leo and Gus for my flank steak.  I let her out about an hour later, and she didn’t want a treat when she came back in.  Over the next 5 minutes, I watched behaviors that I had never seen and knew that the sand was out.  We stayed with her constantly, and she passed here at home just before sunrise, with me by her side.  I held her for a lot after and sobbed into her soft ears, and that somehow helped. 

Sweet Hailey, you were the best dog. You were kind and gentle and good and always happy. You were the best buddy ever. I didn’t realize until you were gone how you were always by my side – you just went along with whatever we were doing, and you were good with that.

And how you LOVED sprinklers! Even when you were old and paid for it for days.

And you never even got mad at me for getting more kitties.

Somewhere in there, Paul learned that he had a cancerous mass on the inside of his cheek, with spread to lymph nodes.  So he had to have surgery for that in Denver.  I dropped him off, waved goodbye as they took him back for surgery, and then came back home to be with Hailey.  Knowing that he would be like a hungry, angry bear coming out of hibernation, I ignored his text later that night complaining about something.  I figured he was still under anesthesia and we could just talk in the morning.  Yeah, no…  At midnight, I wake up to pounding on the door from my deck into my bedroom, and a bright light shining in.  “Sarah, it’s the Eagle police.  Are you ok?”  Um, yeah…  So I take my ear plugs out, get up, and he explains that Paul called 911 from his hospital room because he was worried about me.  The nice officer did think it was a little strange that Paul first gave him an address that went to a field somewhere.  And then when I didn’t hear him knocking on the front door, Paul tried to get him to just climb in thru a downstairs window.  He thought better of that – he was pretty sure I would shoot him.  So we had a good laugh – at midnight, as I stood there in my robe.  And as he was leaving, he tells me, “What’s funny is that I took the accident report for Paul’s fender bender last week, and he told me that he was distracted because the doctor just told him he has cancer.”  After a small silence, he says, “He didn’t tell you about that, did he?”  Ah, life with Paul…

So then we get into the world of cancer – and don’t get me started on the health care industry.  Maybe if it weren’t so siloed, they could effectively help people.  In my world, it would be the equivalent of having your estate planning advisors, your real estate attorney, and your CPA refuse to talk to one another. Our medical system will continue to – expensively – fail unless they can actually communicate and coordinate care of the whole person.  Over the months, I also came to realize a distinct difference between doctors and lawyers.  We lawyers get told ALL THE TIME that we are wrong – we tell it to other lawyers, and other lawyers tell it to us.  Sometimes judges or juries are the ones to tell us we are wrong.  We argue and attack within the boundaries of the weird rules that we agree on – that’s just what we do.  But challenge a doctor?  Yeah, they’re clearly not used to that…  I learned this when Paul’s doctor – who is a very good cancer doctor – had the audacity to tell me that I wasn’t doing my part to support Paul.  Wrong fight for her to pick, and I might have pointed out that it revealed failure or refusal on her part to understand her client.  I suggested that her first question should have been to Paul to understand what HE wanted.  Laying into me was the wrong thing for her to do.

One bright spot in my summer was a visit with my sister, who always makes me happy.  We did some fantastic hiking and eating, and as always, I came back rested and with the world in perspective.

This photo does not do it justice. One wrong step either direction and you had about a 500 foot vertical tumble to look forward to. Emily was trying to kill me – and look at her, she’s chuckling to herself about it!

But like a lot of things in life, the two days of hiking was TOTALLY worth it.

And we found the world’s best hamburger! Never mind that we spent $60.

Paul made it through six weeks of radiation – it’s wasn’t pretty, but he made it and I am proud of him.  And somehow, in the middle of that, I decided that it would be good to bring a new rescue Labrador into our lives.  (My thinking seems so very, very wrong in hindsight..)  Yeah, the difference between a 13 year old lab and a 1 year old is like the difference between a beach on Virgin Gorda and the coldest, most inhospitable planet in the solar system.  And, well, for the first two months or so, all I could feel when I cared for her is that she wasn’t Hailey.

In late August, I spent a fun few days in Montana hiking with one of my longest time friends. It was so cold that Jo and I were in our bunks each night by about 6:30 with every piece of clothing we brought. We laughed a lot, as Jim, Jo and I always do – and we re-lived how lucky we are to have the Grand County roots that we share.

By my birthday in September, I was shot, again.  So I went to visit my parents in Durango.  I had a great drive listening to those songs that only my sister will willingly listen to with me.  I was having a fun drive up Red Mountain Pass – right about where Andy, Adam and Seth died in the avalanche in February, and close to where my grandparents’ ashes are.  Then I hit construction and a little delay.  Which was the start of one of those moments when I realize that someone is watching out for me .  My car decided to overheat (thanks, BMW – it would have been nice if you had proactively told me about the coolant thermostat problem that you knew about on my specific car…)  Just when I was about to start panicking because I couldn’t move and I was holding up impatient traffic, a voice told me exactly what to do.  (And more amazing, I listened!) I spent the next hour or so meeting a new friend – a kind and good and wise woman.  Together, she and I could conquer the world with strength of character and old-fashioned grit.  Miss T, your Christmas card this year reminded me of the kindness and goodness that are still strong in this world.  You bring good to this world.

After 20 years, I’m hitting the stride of my professional career.  (I mean, lets face it – I was basically bred to be a lawyer.)  I have clients that most firms would kill for and a reputation for being a strong advocate.  I get the good work. For five years, one of those projects has been making a world-class addiction treatment center here in the Vail Valley a reality.  I’ve loved the work – the owner is an outstanding human, and the changes we make in the lives of people who need it are amazing and so totally worth every gray hair and wrinkle I have from the battle.  I believe we will disrupt the model of trauma therapy and addiction treatment, making great support accessible to so many more.  So in December, I went in-house with APN.  The work is a terrific challenge, and it is a change of pace from working for myself for the last 15 years.  And lets just say that my stories for happy hour are going to be a whole lot more interesting from now on.

And by the time winter hit, Miss Millie was finally starting to settle in, and the cats began to begrudgingly accept her – and I began to think that maybe there isn’t a better home for her.  She’ll eat anything within reach – there is still a missing remote control (although I found the face plate for it in her kennel).  That TV does funny things every time she walks by.  And I buy cell phones in bulk now.  Alas…  she has a lot of love to give – preferably after somersaulting all gangly 65 pounds of herself into your lap.  She is big, strong, exuberant, stubborn and obstinate, and it took my sister to remind me that in spite of that, she’s still very much a puppy who only wants to be loved and accepted.  Isn’t that all any of us wants, really?

I had great plans to close out the year by spending Christmas with Emily in Chamonix.  If she moves back someday, I want to know that I did that at least once.  So for the last week, I’ve been packing my (many) bags and looking forward to the two planes, two trains and two automobiles that would take me to her for a week of sledding, snow shoeing, 80’s music, more great food and sister time.  And then, as if to remind me that 2021 wasn’t done with me yet, a massive blizzard hit three hours before my flight.  So I got all re-booked for the next day, and then realized – shit… – that I will be out of my 72-hour Covid testing window that I need to enter Switzerland.  And of course there is no Covid testing in the entire Vail Valley until Tuesday, December 28.  So I moved heaven and earth and pulled some strings to get a test – only to have United then cancel my re-scheduled flight, too.  Seriously, 2021?!

Gus was utterly thrilled to have me home.  I walked in to find him sulking under the blankets on my bed.  He bolted out and was my happy little shadow the rest of the day.  I bet he thinks his little stunt of barfing all day the day after I started packing worked to change my plans and keep me here with him. Seriously, this little guy is like velcro on me. I love him an almost-embarrassing amount.

So, 2021, I think it’s better that you and I just agree to part as friends.  I’ll cherish the good times, but you and I were not meant for one another.  This breakup is for the best…

2 thoughts on “Au Revoir, Arrivederci, Adios, Goodbye 2021

  1. Cherish the challenges, your not alone at saying goodbye to 2021 – we ended our project with a smile; exclusive little Ouray out of the back woods.
    Onto Todo land – Kansas just to have a month and a half of COVID
    Into December and 1/2 of our family thinks we’re trying to avoid them..lol
    My little son started back to Eagle far from family .. no Christmas for him.. we got COVID a second time.. which isn’t suppose to happen
    Then you messaged me.. You are now a life support for me
    Your Beautiful smile, refreshing – light and airy personality ! So kind and genuine…. are you
    I pray we will be friends till I pass to the other side… Bigg Huggs Dearest Sarah you are loved much.

  2. My dearest Sarah,
    Thank you for sharing your story, I can’t but feel bad we haven’t stayed in touch more and we are two worlds apart all the time. I would love to be close to you and Paul and hug you till it gets annoying. 2021 definitely sounds like a year that tried to beat us all, but even more so for you hearing all the curve balls it threw at you. Wish I could have been there to hold your hand and whisper words of courage and support in your ear. The new year better be kinder to you or I will Personally come to kick it’s ass for you!!! I miss you very much and hope that we will have an opportunity to see each other in person soon❤️

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