Reasons & Remarks – Hope For 2021

Heading into a new year with hope

By Tom Fjerstad

Years ago, if someone had asked me, “What pops into your mind when I say 2020?” I would have responded by saying “perfect vision.”

While 20/20 vision acuity may not be perfect vision in every aspect, the year 2020 will certainly not be remembered as a perfect year in any aspect. In fact, depending on what lens you viewed the year’s events through, you undoubtedly saw many different things interpreted in many different ways.

From the onset of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to the civil unrest in cities across the country, it appeared that the tint of your particular lens enabled the view to take on different perspectives. 

I don’t recall anyone saying to me that he or she wished 2020 would last forever to the contrary. Everyone I know wishes to put this year behind them, with hopes of returning to some sense of normalcy in 2021. The year presented challenges for all of us. Many of those challenges were as unique as we are as individuals, and many followed a common theme.

Many Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) members require frequent medical monitoring and attention, and the process to access that care was unquestionably altered because of COVID-19. Precautions implemented by the facilities where we would normally receive our care were varied and inconsistent at best.

The Department of Veterans Affairs spinal-cord injury center system of care was no exception, as each facility scrambled to implement protocols it deemed appropriate. Annual exams either never occurred or were relegated to the virtual world in a desperate attempt to provide some version of care. This is the one area where we needed a strong and unified approach.

Elsewhere, routine activities such as grocery shopping or visiting friends became challenging at best or impossible at worst. Empty store shelves were indicative of the fear felt by most. Why toilet paper became the nation’s top commodity, I’ll never understand, especially in an election year when all of that campaign mail could have been put to far better use.

When watching what occurred in Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, Ore., and countless other cities, the tint of your lens may have shown you peaceful protests or riots, burning buildings and looting. So, which was it? I think the safe answer is a combination of the two with a lot of finger-pointing after the fact. Whatever lens you viewed these through, I can’t believe there’s any shade of rose-colored glasses that allowed you to find peace in the midst of such turmoil.

Many regular exercise routines went by the wayside because of shutdowns and restrictions. That halted or seriously slowed not just the physical benefits, but the far more important mental health advantages, too. Just as I thought there might be light at the end of the tunnel, I heard that the United States Quad Rugby Association does not support sanctioned gameplay starting in January.

Virtually every PVA meeting scheduled in 2020 was canceled or relegated to the virtual world of Zoom. These virtual meeting platforms proved helpful in overcoming some of the restrictions put in place, but they’ll never replace the essential qualities of being face-to-face in the real world. 

When PVA held its annual convention by Zoom in May versus the planned face-to-face meeting in Dallas, everyone thought COVID-19 would certainly be behind us long before our next scheduled meeting in October. We looked forward to coming together in the fall to deliberate the issues in a real meeting, as we had for the past 74 years. 

This obviously didn’t happen. Many people have given up on the idea of ever completely returning to normal. I’ve never been described as being an eternal optimist, but I refuse to acquiesce to a concept of anything short of a complete and total return to our previous state of normalcy.

Some of us may have had the way we personally dealt with the 2020 turmoil questioned, which only added to the stress and to our desire for this year to end. I hope the year 2021 will bring with it a complete and total return to all of the activities in every aspect of your life that make you feel normal.

Happy holidays, and may your New Year’s toasts be filled with optimism for 2021!  


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