Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dick Clark and a New Decade

I hardly ever stay awake to welcome in the New Year, but I did this year. Of course, the only reason for me to watch TV until midnight is to witness the ball drop in New York City. Dick Clark, known for years as America’s oldest teenager, looked amazingly handsome, but his slow, measured speech was hard to understand.

Dick Clark’s faltering words reminded me of the changes in Jim’s speech when dementia caused him to develop aphasia. Jim’s hesitant speech was filled with repetitive phrases and eventually turned into silence. Late in the disease, it was hard to remember the days of intriguing conversations and shared jokes.

Dick Clark’s impaired speech was caused by a stroke in 2004. Eighty-year-old Clark has made an amazing recovery.

“They were debating on TV this morning about whether it is really a new decade,” my friend said.

“I’m no mathematician, but I can tell you that the decade will start next year,” I replied.

I learned the lesson of time from a Trivial Pursuit game years ago. The question: What date is the first day of the 21st century? I didn’t even need to think about it—I had always puzzled over why the years started with 19, but the show on TV was “The Twentieth Century.” I thought the trick was that the 2000s were the 21st century.

“January 1, 2000,” I said.

“Wrong,” my brother-in-law Dennis replied. “January 1, 2001.” After a lengthy discussion, we decided the card was a misprint. After all, Henry Salveter, our cooperative attorney at the time and one of the smartest men I ever knew, always said he was born the last day of the last month of the last century and his birthday was December 31, 1899.

Later that night, I lay in bed thinking about it and suddenly realized the card was correct. When time began, the first year would begin at 0 and twelve months later would be 1. In grammar school we all learned that 101-1=100. Lo, and behold, the new century would begin in 2001.

I discussed the turn of the century, before it happened, with my brother Mitchell. He mulled it over in his logical way and asked me, “When do you think the parties will be?”

During the countdown to 2010, I noticed Dick Clark missed a few numbers, repeated a few, but was back on track by the time the ball dropped and he said, “Welcome to the new decade.”

Technically, it’s not a new decade, but logically, you would not say welcome to the decade of 2011-2021, would you? It doesn’t really matter what happened between years 0-10.

If Henry Salveter knew that 1900 began a new century, and Dick Clark says that 2010 is a new decade, it’s good enough for me.

It is best if we use our hearts to define time. The decades we’ve lived through are our past and what makes us who we are. The decades in the future define who we will become. But in the grand scheme of things, it is today that is most important.

Happy New Year and have a great decade. And, hey, if 2010 doesn’t work out for you—just start your new decade next year.
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