Bertha Cooper

Think About It: Happy New Year (at last)!

Twenty-four percent more Christmas trees have been sold this year than at this same time last year. Either we don’t have anything else to do inside our houses and the kids are plotting a rebellion or we’re trying to end this impossible year with a positive spin. Holiday lights started going up in my neighborhood before Thanksgiving.

I started this column year writing about “The Impossible Year.” Like all of you, I knew this was not going to be an easy year given it was a presidential election year and we as a nation were becoming increasingly divided. Sadly, our divide is not some sort of philosophical divide argued out over family holiday dinners but rather an angry tortured divide that drove the fearful — and I suppose the fearless to buy more guns and conciliators to seek out methods of promoting civil discourse.

The year started out pretty good. My husband’s January birthday brought word from a publisher willing to take a chance on an unknown author and old woman at that who wrote her first book.

My good fortune turned out to be a fleeting experience when by my own hand I let someone into my computer who turned out to be fake help and a real scam which took two trips into OlyPen computer services to rid my sick computer of the con and his trail of viruses. Too bad that wasn’t the only viruses in our lives.

Because — and who can forget? — COVID-19 struck our shores sometime in February and by mid-March we entered the strange world of being in a pandemic avoiding contact with a highly virulent “novel,” that is new coronavirus strain that was killing many of its victims.

Lives got turned inside out when certain businesses closed and those that stayed opened geared up to protect employees and customers. In our household of two, I became the only one who would risk with great caution going out to buy essentials due to the high probability that my husband would become seriously ill, possibly die if he contracted COVID-19.

I don’t like grocery shopping; my husband loves it. He coached me much like a little league coach trying to get a reluctant child up to bat. He knows how to select the right piece of meat or fish or the right apple or cucumber. He knows the right brands for certain products like beef broth or vegetable soup. I knew how to buy frozen peas. I worried over selecting the right cut of beef and agonized when grocery shelves were empty. Husband soon learned to teach with patience and lavish with praise.

The first phase of the pandemic was filled with confused direction not only because the virus was new and guidance changed as more was known but because the virus’ disease varied from being asymptomatic to ravishing lungs or brains or circulatory systems or all of the above in one human body. The White House, Congress and the Federal Reserve relatively quickly passed a relief package to ease the economic cost.

The White House deferred management of the spread of the virus to states who had varying levels of expertise and resources. Surprisingly, some States had little interest in controlling the spread.

Pandemic, politics and killing of George Floyd

The mixing of the pandemic and election politics was doomed from the beginning, sadly taking American lives with it when wearing a mask became a symbol of government control over one’s free will.

To this day, I cannot get my head around the allegations that COVID-19 is a hoax meant to derail the re-election of the president. He even said that COVID-19 would cease to be a topic of conversation the day after the election.

We all know COVID-19 is on the increase and on the verge of over stressing hospital systems in some areas. But the COVID conspiracy of hoaxes is still with us and joined by the conspiracy of election fraud across the USA that resulted in the president’s election loss. I imagine a diagram of either of these conspiracy theories would look like a pile of cooked spaghetti.

Late in May, our burden of racial inequality was again starkly revealed with the cell phone video of the police killing of George Floyd who pleaded for the chance to breathe with the police officer who had his knee on Floyd’s neck. Not many could turn away and excuse the cruel reality of his fate shown on widely seen video of his dying minutes.

Therein followed demonstrations of grief, sadness, anger and protests played out against the backdrop of the deadly virus and political divide that both thrived in such confrontations.

We’re not stuck here

There is light on the horizon but we are not likely to get to that dawn until winter has taken a toll. The counterweights are being put in place to balance our lives. Effective COVID-19 vaccines have been developed and are completing testing. A new White House administration is coming in and promising a return to science and governance. The courts are requiring evidence in hearing suits alleging election fraud.

Bringing racial equality to society’s institutions and healing the divide perhaps better described as a rupture are more difficult and require time and attention. We could use some kindness.

Here are my simple suggestions based on my year.

• Don’t allow anyone you don’t know into your computer to “help” you.

• Wear a mask, socially distance and wash/sanitize hands, stay more than 6 ft away from people who don’t wear masks.

• If you choose not to wear a mask, stay more than 6 feet away from people who are wearing masks. Don’t go into small, confined spaces like some public restrooms when masked person is present. Don’t scream in anger at businesses who require you to be masked.

• Study the science and learn that science in any area is an unending quest that changes as more is known. Certainty in science is not a virtue when searching the unexplained.

• Study the reasoning of those with whom you have conflicting interpretations of the same data. Try to understand theirs and yours.

I write simple resolutions and suggest patience in the spirit of survival, help is on its way and the holidays. For the moment, we can look beyond our differences that anger and hurt us. We can forgive the hapless grocery shopper who blocks the counter in an anxious search for perfect bacon. We can forgive the evolving nature of science and at the same time the exactitude that requires safety in treatment and vaccines.

After this year, we can all use moments of reflection, forgiveness, kindness, love and peace, all so much easier than their alternatives.

Bertha Cooper, featured columnist in the Sequim Gazette, spent her 50-plus career years in health care administration/consultation. She recently published two books: “Women, We’re Only Old Once” and “Old and On Hold, Aging in Place during the Pandemic.” Reach her at

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