Goodbye, Hello

Here it is that time of year again. Why don't they slow down? They don't slow down; they speed up.

I'm one who takes account of a year that is ending. This year I recorded several goodbyes and, happily, a few hellos.

Goodbye, more or less, to the New York City underground system. It's hard to reach with my red and black walker (which a friend names my Ferrari). I've patronized subways thousands of times for half a century, so I figure I can forsake more trips below. I manage on my own legs or with my walker which rolls easily onto a bus or a cab.

Probably I've said goodbye to long trips. Though I remember dozens of getaway adventures here and abroad, by now I am happy to take an occasional easy, not too far away, get-out-of-town. Age increases the pleasure of just being comfortable, at home.

If I were less lazy, I'd still be producing meals in my kitchen, but cooking for one person lost its luster some time back, so I've said mostly so long to the oven. When eating alone I bring in a salad or something prepared from outside.

It was a very reluctant goodbye this year to an alarming number of mom-and-pop stores in my neighborhood forced out of business by landlords who increased their rents by some exorbitant amount. Far more than the huge box stores, those small merchants smile and inject a big city like New York with its humanity. I patronized them all the time, and I miss them.

There was a big goodbye for a friend whose long-time cat died a month ago. The pet was part of her household for 15 years or more. Anyone who hasn't lost an animal doesn't know that it's a breach every bit as tough as the loss of a human. It's not made easier when you get a beseeching glance from an ill cat and you know that separation wants to be delayed on both sides.

Not yet but soon I'll say goodbye to the sole garden and fine old tree that I've seen for years from my bedroom windows. They are to be destroyed by the private boys' school behind my building, necessary, of course, for more rooms to expand their curriculum. This will be the school's last step in killing all vegetation on their property, starting years ago. I've tried in vain to stop that.

So for goodbyes. I try not to mark the year-end without some hellos.

This year I met a couple of smart young men in the gay men's book group I attend. New guys infuse those meetings with intelligent opinions on books they really have read. They enliven the group and make me happy with new acquaintances.

Hello this year also to three high school students who meet with me every week for tutoring in my apartment. Though the age group keeps widening between me and them, knowing 15- or 16-year-olds is a sure way to keep the brain alive. (One of them just gave me Humans of New York -- Stories, the lovely book by Brandon Stanton. A surprisingly grown-up gift idea from a 15-year-old.)

Maybe it's inevitable, but this year, as in recent years, I find myself remembering a lot of past times. If I get too stuck in reverie, I try to pull the plug and focus on my life today, above all so many blessings I enjoy. The closeness one derives from close friends and relatives are not goodbyes or hellos, but the continuity that sustains every day. Never more than in these tough world times are those people needed.

I pray for my friends and relatives to still be here though all of 2016, and so for other people as well.

Stanley Ely writes about aging issues in his book "Life Up Close, a Memoir" in paperback and ebook.