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  My Second Act

by Betty Auchard

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Without negotiating.

The words shot through my heart and ripped it open. While staring at the gray front tooth that I was about to replace, I wept with sorrow because negotiations had ended . . . forever.

Millennium: Learning to live without the person

I had finally gotten used to the word millennium in everyday conversation when the phrase “Y2K” entered the scene. It had a catchy sound and look. But no one knew how long it took me to figure out what it meant. I was alone, thank God, when I realized it meant “Year Two Thousand.” I said aloud to myself, “Oh, yeah. I get it.” But I realized I still had more to learn when someone asked, “Betty, are you Y2K compliant?”

The new phrase was plastered everywhere in big, colorful letters. It began to worry me. One night, a newscaster asked from the television screen, “Are you Y2K compliant?” I grabbed a strand of hair, twisted it in my fingers, and whimpered, “I don’t know.”

Media coverage made matters worse. It warned of complexities regarding bank account numbers, documents, and records because of snags involving zeros and the number nine. It was far too complex to understand, and I had no idea what to do about it. I only knew that I wasn’t prepared for what the year 2000 might bring.

Should I stash some cash, fill my tank with gas, have plenty of food, water, and medical supplies available, and maybe a flashlight? I expected looting and vandalism. My garage was too full of junk to make room for my car, so I worried that it could be in big trouble, unprotected in the driveway. It felt as if the end of the world were coming instead of a new century.

It did not help matters that I would enter the year 2000 alone, without Denny beside me. He had planned a milestone celebration because the century would change on the heels of our 50th anniversary. It was a wonderful coincidence – but it wasn’t meant to be. Denny had a date with cancer instead of with the millennium and me.

The foreboding news of possible vandalism and looting didn’t help my frame of mind either. It filled me with dread, and I felt more alone than ever in my new role as a widow. I declined New Year’s Eve parties to stay home and guard my house and car – and watch the world fall apart on television from the safety of my bed. I felt weepy as I crawled beneath the down comforter alone and thought of Denny.

The television coverage was magnificent as it showed New Year celebrations and pageantry around the world. It was a welcome distraction. I was glad to see the mayhem hadn’t yet started in other countries, but maybe only America expected chaos.

As I flipped from channel to channel watching the nations of the world enter the new century, I forgot to worry. Soon, I was too weary to witness the arrival of the year 2000 on TV, so I turned out the light and hunkered under the covers. I prayed that my street would be the same in the morning and my car would remain in the driveway, unharmed. I was so tired from fretting that I easily fell asleep.

I had slept less than an hour when I was awakened by what I thought was the sound of popcorn popping in my microwave. I sat upright with eyes bulging. Had revelers invaded my kitchen? I picked up the phone to call for help and noticed the time. It was 12:05 a.m. New Year’s Day. I cautiously peeked out the window. My car was still there. No one was in the streets; there were no sparklers, drunkards, or anything.

No lions or tigers or bears. Oh, my.

Hearing the faint sound of firecrackers in the distance, I was reassured the house had not been overtaken by corn-popping prowlers. A few minutes later it was over.

I said aloud, “Is that all there is? Where is everybody?” I had expected more than that in the way of celebration and hell raising for a new century. I was so relieved. My whole body felt different. I had come through the front door of the Year Two Thousand alone and unharmed. I felt like Wonder Woman.

I crawled back under the comfort of down, fell asleep, and dreamed. I was ready for Y2K. Anything was now possible.


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