2011 was a year of turmoil and misfortune. Nonbeliever though I am, I am tempted to say that it was a cursed year.
Some would point to the movements, which began in Tunisia and became then Arab Spring, and then spread around the world, and say that 2011 was in fact a year of hope. Unless these movements result in lasting, positive change, however, we will only be able to say that 2011 was a year of great upheaval and unrest.
I wish I could say that I will remember it as the year that I got engaged, but then, it was also the year my fiancée went to the emergency room three times for two complete freak accidents. I wish I could merely remember it as the year we spent five romantic days in San Francisco, culminating in the wedding of our two good friends. However, I cannot remember that without thinking also of the call I received the very last night there informing me that my aunt had passed away at the age of 59. What would have been her 60th birthday came and went earlier this month.
2010 concluded on a joyous note, as family gathered from far and wide to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday. 2011 began with a tragedy, as her brother, 5 years her senior, passed away in early January. It was not unexpected, yet in my short life I’ve already learned that every passing is a surprise, no matter how anticipated. He was a great man, a loving father and uncle, and we were all thankful that he had made through nearly all of his 95 years of life without any mental deterioration whatsoever until near the very end.
I have since heard from friends and family that they lost loved ones and suffered several misfortunes in the first half of the year, but between my granduncle’s passing and the phone call I received in San Francisco, 2011 showed the potential for being a wonderful year.
Knowing me too well to trust my judgment on such matters, Catherine accompanied me to pick out a ring. So we made an appointment, and one Monday in April we took an early morning Bolt Bus up to New York City, where we made our way to a tiny little place in the Diamond District. We picked a beautiful ring, and celebrated with lunch at Le Bernadin. We would keep the trip a secret until I had formally proposed, meaning I had to come up with an excuse when my parents left me a worried voicemail because I hadn’t been flooding Twitter and Facebook the way I do on a typical day.
When the ring arrived a few weeks later and I proposed, we had a romantic dinner together at Cork, one of our favorite restaurants in the neighborhood. We then went through the age-old process of deciding who needed to be told first, followed by addressing the more modern question of “who do we want to make sure knows about this before we put it on Facebook?”
Once that was taken care of, announcing it on Facebook and Twitter was really very fun. Facebook automatically does this thing where it pulls up pictures that have both of us in it, it was very nice. Of course, the announcement ended up getting slightly overshadowed by a minor event you may have heard about that happened later that evening.
We had been going back and forth on whether to go out to San Francisco for our friends’ wedding because of how big a commitment such a trip would be, but at a certain point we decided that we just did not want to miss it. So we turned the trip into our vacation. We used Airbnb to find an extremely affordable place to stay for five nights. We reached out to our friends who had lived in San Francisco before, and they reached out to their friends who were still there–and the response was overwhelming. On June 1st, we flew out to San Francisco armed with more than enough information about the restaurant and cultural scene there to ensure we would have a good time.
It was one of the best vacations I have ever had, if for no other reason than I shared it with her. It was also the first time that I was really able to appreciate the food culture of a place I was visiting; before I met Catherine I was an extremely picky eater, and although I had been to Paris and Madrid and elsewhere, I had not even attempted to enjoy the local cuisine. Catherine began broadening my tastes early in our relationship, and by the time we went to San Francisco I was trying everything and anything. It’s a beautiful city and we had a fantastic time. The wedding was wonderful and and a lot of fun, as well.
We were sitting in the little room we had rented in a flat in the Mission District late in the afternoon of June 5th, the day after the wedding and our last day in San Francisco. We were trying to decide what to do for dinner; at that stage in the trip neither of us were feeling very adventurous so we were thinking of what we could do that was close by. In the middle of this discussion I received a call from my mother. I could tell something was wrong, and I was afraid that something had happened to one of my grandparents. Then she told me it was my Aunt Mari, that she was gone.
I don’t really remember the initial explanation she gave me, and I wasn’t much good at conveying the details to Catherine. I was, frankly, in shock. How could this have happened? Catherine and I spent our last evening in San Francisco in a quiet, mostly empty wine bar, not far from where we were staying, trying not to think too much about the news which seemed bigger than my mind could begin to absorb.
2011 will always be the year that my Aunt Mari died.
The year did not go well after that, either. I don’t feel comfortable talking about all of it here out of respect for the privacy of the particular individuals, but several of our loved ones have struggled with health problems–physical, mental, and emotional. One of my best friends in the world had an anxiety attack on a scale that she had never experienced before. Several members of both of our families have ended up in hospitals. Catherine herself was there three times–once because she was hit by someone on a bicycle, and the other times after she accidentally splashed boiling water on herself. There is much about the year after our return from San Francisco that was truly wretched.
However, I am not so blind as to miss how lucky we really are, through all of this.
Much of our pain is the pain of seeing the people we love suffer, yet this is an unavoidable part of having so many wonderful people in our lives, from family to friends. The tragedies that have happened this year have shown me how truly lucky I am to know such truly good people. I am so proud to be joining Catherine’s family; the way they came together to support one another this year was very humbling. From friends and family alike, I saw people commit acts of love and kindness, big and small, for those who were hurting.
There is no one who I knew in January that I think less of now in December as a result of what transpired in between. 2011 was a troubling, awful year, but I wouldn’t have chosen to navigate through it with any other group of people than the ones I had.
I hope the journey we take through 2012 is a better, brighter one, but either way I am eternally grateful for the people I will be taking it with.