Once again, it's that time to write another end-of-the-year column. I have several options here. I can make some resolutions, I can make some predictions, or I can itemize the biggest stories of the year — in reverse order of magnitude, of course — like some kind of homegrown David Letterman Top 10 list: "And the No. 1 story of 2013 is ..." (drum roll).
I went online to review the year and see what I had forgotten over the last 12 months. It seems that a lot of people out there want to play Letterman and make their own lists for 2013 based on their whatever special interest interests them (sports, songs, videos, celebrities, you name it). It actually took some effort to find someone ranking news events in this entertainment-crazed culture, but I finally located a pretty good one at Wikipedia under the entry for 2013.
Here were listed what some editors considered the 25 most important events of 2013. Some were so obscure that I never heard of them (March 27: Canada becomes the first nation to withdraw from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification), yet it's easy to understand how they may some day be considered significant.
It was surprising to see that only three of the 25 events directly involved the United States or Americans. I'm old enough to remember when little happened on this globe — for good or evil — without American participation. Today, the world is much more crowded and interdependent. No single nation will likely ever dominate global affairs as the United States did for half of the last century. Today any tin-pot dictator with the capacity to build a nuclear bomb or any terrorist gang with the capacity to use such a bomb may seize the world's attention and alter the course of human events. To make my point, terrorist groups and rogue nations made the Wiki list four times in 2013.
As for publicly making my New Year's resolutions, I don't even make private ones any more. At my age I know the things I'm supposed to do — whether I do them or not is another matter. Experience has also taught me not to make predictions. I surrendered my prognosticator's license after I predicted that Newt Gingrich would win the GOP presidential nomination last year.
But I have discovered what many have long known. This is a fitting time to count our blessings, and the first one I count is being alive. I have reached the age that I watch old friends — people I have known since high school and college — die. Each year seems to bring another loss, and the losses will quicken as the years pass. In 2013, it was Stephen in January, Margie in June. I had kept up with them since our University of Georgia days together, although over the past couple of years it was mainly by email.
Stephen was a landscape designer with a couple of troubled marriages and a couple of troubled kids. He was wickedly witty and sardonic, and he understood better than most of us, I think, that nothing is forever. He drank too much — I think for the same reason he laughed and joked so much — to live with a pain too deep and personal to be excised by therapy.
Margie was a high school English teacher in Florida who shared my dream of writing the Great American Novel. Like me, she landed a few short stories over the years, but was still wrestling with her epic when the doctor told her last spring that she had pancreatic cancer. I don't know if she tried to write about it. I know only that her emails became fewer and briefer after she announced her illness, until late June, when I received an email from her husband informing her far-flung circle of friends that she had passed.
Nothing makes you feel old like watching your friends die. But after the initial grief comes the cruel and unexpected schadenfreude.
I would rather watch my friends die than have them watch me die. This life is all we have, and as long as we have it, we may dream and hope and work and write our novels and make the world a better place. Without it, we are nothing more than a memory, and I am not ready to become a memory.
So I will wish you a happy new year and hope that you may be here to receive that benediction this time next year — and that I will be here to give it. That is perhaps the kindest word we can offer each other this season.
Will Moredock blogs at WillMoredock.com.