Op-Ed: Brutal Honesty about 2020 (or what’s left of it)

Rare it is that I publish an op-ed from a first-person perspective.

Hi, I’m Ryan. I’m the editor in chief of this online media rag known as A Miner Detail. Okay, it’s not a rag; it’s a pretty damn good online multimedia experience if you ask me. However, we have to get Dean Sears’ esteemed permission to sit in the dingy basement of the Maryland State House.

I’m feeling audacious today. Don’t everybody get up at once and cheer.

(I do my level best to be brutally honest with this audience. To be true to my natural form, I occasionally need to sprinkle salty language into my writing because I actually do speak like this in “real life;” it’s how I communicate, right or wrong. I’m not proud of my foul-mouthed, X-rated tongue; it’s simply who I am, and I make no apologies. Isn’t there some study out there that says people who curse are smarter?)

I’ll use this quasi-end-of-the-year column to do something slightly different: I’ll get personal, which I’m indisposed to do when writing at A Miner Detail.

I figured 2020 would be a good year when it began.

Shit. Stretch out those vowels. Shhhhhiiitttt.

I turned 35 almost two weeks ago.

I feel like I’m in a groove, perhaps. I feel like I have myself figured out in some way or another: I can articulate my inner-most thoughts and feelings coherently and without too many “uhs or ums.” I think I have a grasp professionally. But I still have little clue as to what I really want to do when I grow up. I guess I should figure it out soon.

For me, though, this year has been a mixed bag of shit tacos and minor (wait, Miner…har) successes.

First, COVID-19. Let’s get that out of the way.

Jesus. Who would have predicted COVID-19 at this time last year? Scientists? Public health officials? Anthony Fauci? Come on, nobody really knows.

Let’s all acknowledge that the only good to come out of this pain-in-the-ass but necessary lockdown is collectively deciding to loathe Carole Baskin at pretty much the same time in the early months of this God-fucking-awful pandemic. (Sorry, there was the first F-bomb. I’ll be good henceforth.)

A Miner Detail turned five-years-old in March.

AMD has been through the proverbial ringer as the bastard step-child of Maryland media outlets. Hey now, we’re hanging in there; we’ve developed a solid and sometimes sordid reputation for getting it right and keeping it fresh, especially with the podcast. Some people love us, and some people hate us. But we love love love what we do.

So what happened this year in my life?

I managed to finish my master’s degree in May (MBA) – finally, after five years. Life happens; time isn’t always on your side. And I’m putting my business degree to good use. Also,  I no longer have to beg my parents for money.

Then the beginning of May happened.

It was a Wednesday morning. I think it was around 7:30 a.m. My phone rang. It was my father. Not uncommon because we typically talked in the mornings before we both went to work.

Dad and I got into a shouting match over politics and pandemic science during that call. Ugh. The conversation could have been handled much better on both ends. I felt horrible after I hung up on my dad. What’s worse – and this isn’t good – I didn’t even call my own father on Father’s Day this year. Yeah, it was shitty. I know it. I still feel awful to this day.

That conversation ended in a six-month silent stalemate between my father and me.

We didn’t talk for six whole months – because of politics. It’s bullshit, right? Yeah, kind of. I’m close with my father. We’ve had our issues over the years, but he’s my father—the same with my mother. We have had our own fair share of disagreements and shouting matches – but she’s my mom, and I love her (and we disagree on politics). She’s my mom. That’s all you need to know. She’s my mother, and as complicated as we are, I love her more than I can put into words.

Then the morning of June 4th came.

I was driving my company car. I had just gotten off the phone with a political candidate (sort of). I was parked in the Poolesville Dollar General Store, which just so happens to be my wife and I’s favorite shopping get-away.

My mother called me. She was crying. I knew it had to be something serious, likely something with my grandparents.

It was serious – very serious. My grandmother, who has suffered from Alzheimer’s for the last decade, was rushed to Meritus Hospital in Hagerstown, my hometown. I drove as quickly as I could to my Gaithersburg home. I picked up my wife, Kimberly, and we sped to Hagerstown as fast as I could drive without getting a ticket.

My grandmother was released the same afternoon from the hospital. She walked in the door of her home and soon collapsed, literally in my arms. She was again rushed to the hospital. She stayed overnight and was released the next day. To this day, we still have no idea what caused her collapse. Maybe it was dehydration? We just don’t know.

That Sunday, my mother, stepfather, and I decided to do what many American families have had to do: Pick up the phone and call Hospice.

Have you ever experienced that moment? That wasn’t a good moment for any of us. I mean, how could it have been? I remember that moment so clearly like it was yesterday. We were sitting on the back porch of my grandparents’ home in Hagerstown. And we just held one another, and we cried. I held my mom. We cried for a long, long time. And I took a walk in their big backyard. And I cried some more because death scares the hell out of me.

Five months later, my grandmother is ready to “graduate” from Hospice, we believe. That’s up to her doctors, but her condition has markedly improved. We thought we almost lost her. But we didn’t. This is a moment to celebrate this year.

The Alzheimer’s path for my “Memaw” is inevitable. But my grandmother – Maureen – celebrated her 88th birthday in August. We exchanged gifts, ate cake, and picked up takeout from the Fireside in Hagerstown, our go-to birthday restaurant.

Watching in real-time a beautiful, gracious, wonderful woman robbed of her mind is tragic and breathtaking. I hate Alzheimer’s. I really hate it. I want to yell at the disease every day. I do. You should hear me sometimes standing on my back porch.

“How dare you take away my grandmother from me!” We all have different coping mechanisms. Yelling at Alzheimer’s is my coping mechanism.

Then the summer.

New friendships were made this year; some, sadly, I’m afraid, drifted away.

There are few friendships during our brief time on earth that are entirely worth saving. Some friendships are harder than others, but life is hard – it’s a sloppy, messy, complicated, nuanced, and complex process. This year, I think I learned not to give up on people without a fight. Don’t think for a moment that a friendship has to end over petty differences. I don’t know. I value people, especially during these times.

I can count on less than ten fingers the number of “true” friends I could call in the middle of the night who wouldn’t think twice to bail me out of jail. Couple that with a good lawyer, and you’re set for life.

Fast forward to October.

My wife and I drove to South Florida to help care for my mother-in-law, who suffered an awful fall in a shoddy, two-bit Walmart in late September. Kim stayed behind for the remainder of the time (six weeks in total). I drove back to Maryland after spending a week in sunny Port Charlotte.

Kim and I were away from one another for nearly five weeks – the longest we’ve been away from one another in years. The time apart wasn’t easy. In fact, I was kind of lost without her. But I think the time we spent away from one another led to real growth in our marriage. Like any married couple, we have work to do. We still have work to do. We love each other. It doesn’t matter if you understand. We love each other.

Okay, I’ll get really personal: We’re trying to have a baby (Kim is, but I’m donating my friends). This process is emotionally taxing. She and I are going to make it happen, I believe. More on that sometime later. Kim has to okay me writing about this topic (she doesn’t know I’m writing this column).

My worst day of 2020?

My birthday. Yeah, my birthday.

It wasn’t a good day. I sat alone all day in my house. I spent some of my time on my back deck, gazing into an abyss of nothing. It was cloudy and cold that day. I missed my family. I missed my wife. I missed my friends. I didn’t feel good, and I didn’t feel like turning 35. I couldn’t wait for November 15th to be over. My birthday was crap. I felt like crap. I was sad for most of the day.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day.

It was a hard day for me. I saw my grandparents and my family. It was so comforting to see my family (even as we practiced social distancing).

But my 95-year-old grandfather – the rock of my life, the centerpiece of our family, the greatest man I’ve ever known – is failing. His health has declined within the last month. There is nothing I can do. I can spend time with him and tell him how much I love him and what he means to me. That’s most important to me right now. Damnit, it’s tough.

I’m not ready. I’m just ready for the inevitable journey to come to a close. I have no idea how I’m going to be able to get through it when that day arrives. Everybody says that you can find strength in our moments of adversity, but I’m not ready; I’m not prepared, and I don’t know how I’m going to handle it. That’s the God’s-honest truth.

I saw my dad yesterday afternoon for the first time in six months. We hugged it out and promised to sort of, kind of *not* discuss politics moving forward. LOL. My father and me. You have to love it. We need our own television show. People would watch, too.

2020 was a shitty year (and I didn’t even include half of what I could have written).

Yet, I am grateful: my family, my lovely, brilliant, and beautiful wife, Kimberly, our two uncompromisingly amazing children, my parents, grandparents, and friends. That wraps up who is most important to me. Nothing else matters.

To sum up 2020 in a word, for me: relationships.

Build them, cultivate them, grow them, repair them, nurse them – and don’t lose them if you can.

I’ll be back to covering Maryland politics in a few days. Today is a little different. No politics. You don’t want to read about politics. Turn on your television. Then turn it off! I had my fill of cable news for the rest of my life earlier this month. Did you all know that we had a presidential election? Does anybody know what happened?

Today I wanted to give open a window into my life over this past year. You know, it’s really not all that interesting, as you can read.

Be well, A Miner Detail readers.

Remember, relationships are everything.

Ryan Miner is the editor of A Miner Detail, a nonpartisan and independent Maryland-based multimedia outlet. He is the host of A Miner Detail Podcast. He can be reached at Ryan@AMinerDetail.com