Oliver: A look back at the wild ride that was 2017

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

For a lot of us, 2017 was a mixed bag: a little good, a little bad and some in between.

Although it might not have been any official dictionary’s word of the year, I’d have to say “surreal” would be my choice to describe the past few months.

Yet, here we are. Upright, mobile and breathing, as my husband is fond of saying.

Some among us found the courage to stand up and break their silence. One of the biggest stories of the year was the resurgence of the #MeToo movement, which gained traction after allegations of sexual misconduct were leveled against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Who knew so many prominent men would be facing their own comeuppance? Politicians, media figures, corporate giants, comedians and actors were only a few of those who had to face their accusers. While I applaud the bravery of the victims to come forward, I can’t help but fear the backlash that no doubt is coming.

Then there was the constant barrage of genuinely scary international news involving just about every corner of the globe: potential election tampering from Russia, warfare in Syria, economic meltdown in Venezuela, renewed strife in Israel and, most constant of all, the war of words with North Korea. Terrorist attacks in one country after another.

Closer to home were the horrible mass shootings at a country music festival in Las Vegas and at a church service in Texas. Then there was the protest that turned violent – and deadly – at a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A series of natural disasters left thousands of people homeless, caused billions of dollars of damage and, of course, led to more political infighting. That seemed to happen with everything, right? Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in Florida and the Gulf Coast, and Hurricane Maria added to the misery of an already-reeling Puerto Rico. Wildfires devastated acre upon acre in California, not even sparing Napa’s wine country.

Even closer to home was the area flooding in July. A house explosion in Marengo. An ever-widening opioid crisis not only here, but everywhere. And then there was the continued uncertainty over a state budget. In the end, we all were stuck with higher income taxes. Swell.

We also lost some big names this year: Mary Tyler Moore, Bill Paxton, Al Jarreau, Jerry Krause, Jonathan Demme, Erin Moran, J. Geils, Don Rickles, Gregg Allman, Roger Moore, Chris Cornell, Prodigy, Anita Pallenberg, Adam West, Jimmy Piersall, Sam Shepard, John Heard, Martin Landau, Richard Anderson, Jay Thomas, Dick Gregory, Jerry Lewis, Glen Campbell, Don Baylor, Ara Parseghian, Hugh Hefner, Jake LaMotta, Harry Dean Stanton, Frank Vincent, Don Williams, Walter Becker, Fats Domino, Robert Guillaume, Y.A. Tittle, Tom Petty, Jim Nabors, Vincent Scully, Della Reese, David Cassidy, Charles Manson, Mel Tillis, Malcom Young and John Hillerman. Sadly, that’s only a few.

At the Oliver homestead, we had our own daily challenges to face, problems to solve, issues to address. In reality, a lot of what happened in the rest of the world was background noise amid our everyday struggles. I suppose that has to do with having only so much emotional energy to expend. With both my mother and husband showing signs of decline over the past 12 months, well, it hasn’t exactly been the best of times.

Through it all, however, the one thread in everything has been those who have reached out to ease the suffering of others – whether through monetary support, volunteering to rebuild, offering up prayers, lending a listening ear or just finding ways to make things better.

That has happened in every one of the situations I’ve mentioned earlier. And it’s happened for me personally. I wish to thank all of my dear friends who have helped with my mother, and for all of you wonderful readers who have reached out with words of encouragement, reading recommendations and even poetry. Your help has been invaluable, and my gratitude is immense.

So as we close the book on 2017, with its “fake news” and “alternative facts,” it’s hard not to see just how surreal it all was. A mixed bag, a wild ride, a fidget spinner on a global scale.

Whew! We made it.

Here’s hoping we stick together and help each other through 2018, too.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

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