We’ve made mistakes

But we’ve made good friends too

Remember all the nights

We’ve spent with them?

“It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve”

Barry Manilow

I know what you’re thinking. Barry Manilow, Arnold? Barry. Manilow. Did something happen to you over the holidays? Did you bump your head? Hard?

Before Manilow became kinda fake … OK, maybe he was always fake, but at one time I found Manilow’s fakeness had a certain charm.

Of course, “It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve” has everything to do with what I want to write about, and a Manilow critique isn’t it.

Anyway, I try not to spend too much time looking back over the past. For me, certainly, the past is a mixed bag of wonderful wonders and horrible horrors. If you’re going to look back, you must be “this tall” to enter, and do so at your own risk.

Still… New Year’s? How are you not going to think about the past; previous New Year’s Eve celebrations, if nothing else. Right?

Happy New Year’s Eve? For me? Not so much. For example, the first time I had my heart crushed by a woman (a girl, really) was on New Year’s Eve, 1968, in Ilion, N.Y.

Four years later, I learned to be sure to stand up at midnight. This was after half-a-dozen people leaned over to hug and kiss me while I was seated, and spilled most of whatever it was they were drinking all over me. I know, six? Right? I’m a slow learner.

And, while it may not seem so bad on the face of it, I had to travel home in single-digit temperatures, in soaking wet clothes, reeking of alcohol. If a policeman had stopped me, I might be writing this behind bars, just from the smell alone.

A couple of years after that, I spent New Year’s Eve running lights and the sound system at a cavernous bar in Seneca Falls, N.Y. Normally, we charged $2 for all the beer and wine you could drink, but on that special night it was $5 for all you could drink, period. Period? Period. Scotch? Yes. Rum? Sure. Vodka? You betcha. All three at the same time? Absolutely, and more if you so desired.

I can see you asking yourself, “Well, that’s a great deal. What could possibly go wrong?” Don’t ask. No one actually died, but it wasn’t for the lack of effort.

And so on, and so on. Of course, there were some good New Year’s Eves; they don’t pop any too quickly to mind, though.

And the first New Year’s Eve Sheri and I spent together, well … We had a nice fire going in our wood stove. We put a nice thick rug on the floor to get close to it to the heat. We had some nice hors d’oeuvres. It was wonderful — right up to the moment I fell asleep … about 10:30 p.m. Truly. There are some things you just have to learn to live with. Know what I mean?

Oh, you say, there must have been one that was really good. Actually, there were two. This year’s was one, but last year’s was the best so far.

We’d known I had cancer for a little more than three months, but that’s about all we knew. A number of treatments were being discussed, and one underway that involved chemotherapy in a pill, combined with steroids. We were pretty certain I was going to undergo a stem cell transplant — a fact that would be confirmed one week later on my first trip to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

I suppose any Dec. 31 is like sitting in a sled on top of a snowy hill, ready to take off. You know any number of things could happen on the way down, but thinking about the thrill of the trip makes it all seem worthwhile. That’s how we felt as 2014 crept in. We were scared, anxious, excited about getting better, actually awake as midnight arrived. Best of all, we had each other, ready to meet whatever came next, head on. In my mind, there couldn’t have been a better New Year’s Eve, ever.

Jim Arnold is a former copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. To read more about his journey through cancer, visit his blog, findingthepony.blogspot.com.

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