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On New Year’s Eve, I’ll remember mom

Back when I was in my early 20s, I started a tradition with my mother. I would call her right after midnight on New Year’s Eve and wish her a Happy New Year. No matter where I was, what I was doing, or what time zone I was in.

Over the past 30 years, my wife Kelly and I have celebrated many New Year’s out of town, but I always remembered to call my Mom. In December 2000, we traveled to Pasadena, Calif., to watch my Alma Mater, Purdue, in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

We planned to get up in the middle of night and stake out a spot on the street to watch the Rose Bowl Parade before heading to the stadium to cheer on Purdue and star quarterback Drew Brees. That night, we celebrated the new year by watching the Time Square ball drop on TV from our hotel. I called my mother at 9:01 p.m. Pacific Time (12:01 Eastern Time) before getting a few hours of sleep and heading out for the parade.

In the 2015 to 2016 New Year’s Eve, we were aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina, where there were more than 1,000 people aboard the ship with live music and a massive fireworks display. Despite the crowd and the noise, I called my mother and even though we could barely hear each other over the din, we connected once again, for our New Year’s call.

As we moved into this new decade, from 2019 to 2020, we rang in the new year locally at the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel. It was a fabulous evening with the usual first-class service that the Harbor Hotel is well known for.

My mother’s health had deteriorated in recent years but she always made sure to be by the phone at midnight on New Year’s. I stepped out of the ballroom at the hotel and called my sister’s house, where my mother was staying, and Mom answered the phone. I wished her a Happy New Year and she replied, “I knew you wouldn’t forget me.”

In those first few minutes of the new year, none of us knew what we would soon be facing in the year 2020. Nor did I know it would be the last time I would make my New Year’s call to my mother. In April of this year, my mother passed away. This has been a challenging year for us all. But losing a loved one was especially difficult since it was difficult to properly honor them and celebrate their life due to the pandemic.

As we look forward to closing out this year, like so many people, Kelly and I will be at home for New Year’s Eve. We will say goodbye to 2020 and look forward to the year ahead.

But as the clock strikes midnight, and we usher in 2021, I will start what will be a new tradition. I will take a moment to say a prayer and wish my mother a Happy New Year in Heaven.

May we all have a happy, healthy and better 2021.

George M. Borrello is a New York state senator representing Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany and a portion of Livingston County for District 57.

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