A year of lost voices

What a year. Get me outta here. Tragedy struck two of my favorite families. The deaths of musician Jon Cook, 40, in February and chef Joe Gadansky, 41, in April left three children without their fathers. May the youngsters remind us that many meaningful blessings survive their four decades on Earth. And may all who grieve their loss this holiday season draw comfort and solace in the knowledge that their existence continues to enrich us.

Both circulated widely and left the community a closer place.

In this orbit, it seems an inordinate number of dogs had to be “put down” — out of their misery. One of the most heart-wrenching things humans do is to discover a lifeless pet or surrender one to a terminal injection. But to end otherwise interminable suffering is a supremely humane and merciful blessing. The greatest consolation for pet mourners is to remember how loving a home and life they provided. Anyone would happily be reincarnated as a pet of any owner I know who lost a furry companion this past year. Whence I come, we treat our dogs better than we treat one another. Which brings me to my first resolution: Be more loving interpersonally.

This year I became a little less social, less interactive, less communicative, less involved. My growing absence is excused by those who know me best. I’m meeting expanding needs because we do what we must for the persons we love. It’s a luxury to give back to a parent and teacher who needs and wants you.

I’ll do anything for love, but I won’t join Facebook. I continue to eschew social media and the skim-milk relationships it maintains. Despite my resistance to the new technology, I’ve been texting more and talking less. As a compromise, I’ve resigned myself to doing more of both — by signing on to a plan that imposes no limits for $30 per month. Friends beware that I prefer to talk. Those who insist on texting exclusively will be billed $30 per month. My speech and thoughts will continue to be free. Typing, however, feels too much like work. Moreover, it makes me feel like a squirrel. It’s dehumanizing.

As subset of my lifelong mission to humanize and become more human, I’m on a mission to resurrect the talking phone. I shall no longer be intimidated by fear of voicemail. Just know that etiquette obliges you to call me back at your convenience. If it’s not at my convenience, we’ll play phone tag. That’s OK, because I’ve resolved to talk again. And unless your message box is full, at least we’ll get to hear the other’s human voices.

We’re grappling with more distractions. A line from the blockbuster film “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” resonates. A man tells the character played by beloved Louisvillian Jennifer Lawrence, “From now on, your job is to be a distraction so people forget what the real problems are.” Like a good story, a good phone call has a beginning, middle and end. It interrupts once. Texting, by contrast, imposes multiple distractions. How often can one’s phone explode before one’s head explodes?

Voices were lost in the Kentucky legislature. Sen. Kathy Stein, a Fayette County Democrat, resigned to accept a judicial appointment. Following a similar move by her predecessor, Ernesto Scorsone — and the retirement of Jefferson County spitfire Tim Shaughnessy in June 2012 — Stein was the last outspoken liberal in the Republican-controlled chamber.

In mid-September, Rep. John Arnold, a Democrat, resigned from the Kentucky House a month after two women staffers accused him of sexual harassment. Republican Suzanne Miles won a Dec. 10 special election to become Arnold’s successor, fueling speculation that the GOP may soon gain control of the House.

During the regular session early this year, legislative leaders hailed the success of a bipartisan crackdown on pill mills, clinics where rogue doctors prescribe pain killers with reckless abandon. But the unintended consequence, as narcotics became less accessible, was a heroin epidemic that triggered a tidal wave of crime including vehicle break-ins and home invasions in affluent eastern Jefferson County neighborhoods. Among the 50 states, Kentucky has the third-highest rate of fatal drug overdoses, the vast majority of which remain related to prescription pills.

May we find affordable health and greater happiness in the new year.