Gregg Hirshberg
5 min readSep 2, 2020

Typically, I’m a believer of science. The earth really is round, vaccines don’t cause autism, we really (probably) did send men to walk on the moon and climate change is real and it’s real bad. But here’s one, minor, topic that I’m not sure about; time. Like, you can tell me 2000 was 20 years ago, and show me that we’re closer to the year 2040 than we are 2000, but my freedom of speech gives me the right to say that’s complete bull crap. And given the opportunity, I could prove it. The opportunity is really really specific though. What I need is, someone that has been in a coma since 1980, give or take a couple of years.

You find me that person, and I’ll sit them down and show them a single random movie from 1960, 1980, 2000 and 2020 along with the top selling album from each year, an average television and car from each year. I’d bet both of my arms that this subject would be able to easily tell you what came from 1960 and 1980, but would be hard pressed to discern between the products from 2000 versus those from 2020. Why? Because 2000 wasn’t 20 years ago. I’m sure, at my age, my father also felt that the years were flying by and an increasingly quick pace. But was 1983 as similar to 1963 as 2020 is to 2000? Michael Jackson’s Thriller was the best selling album of 1983 and it was nothing like the soundtrack of West Side Story, the top selling record of 1963. Meanwhile, NSYNC had the top selling album of 2000, while a boy band from Korea (my daughters favorite of favorites) BTS, has the top selling album of 2020. Our subject that just woke up from a coma, would absolutely see BTS and NYSNC as contemporaries. Just as they would see a huge difference, just in the production value, between Cleopatra and Return of the Jedi. And far less difference in production value between How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Bad Boys for Life.

Now that I’ve convinced you that 2000 wasn’t actually 20 orbits around the sun ago, let me explain why this matters. Yesterday I was reminded just how recent 6th grade (1989) really was. Some local news acted as a time machine, and zapped me back to one of the best things I could do in 6th grade. I was riding my best friend, Brendan’s bus after school. Riding the bus sucked, but riding someone else’s bus sucked way less. And wouldn’t you know it, the prettiest girl in school also rode that bus. It was gonna be a great afternoon. I can’t say for sure, but it was probably a Friday. So our plans consisted of eating pizza, playing Double Dribble and possibly making some prank phone calls. But something happened on that bus, that completely took the wind out of my sails.

I had spent the first 12 years of my life, okay, the first 25 years, socially distancing before that was a thing. My circle of friends never exceeded three, and I would have bet that 99% of the school didn’t know my name. Not only was I just super shy by nature, but I was also a pretty depressed kid, overflowing with anxiety. In part, probably a large part, due to some family issues. The youngest of three, my older brother and sister were having serious struggles.

For a brief second, that was all about to just fade away. And by brief, I mean real brief. From the moment Bridget (prettiest girl in Brookfield) to tap on my shoulder and say “Hey” to the next words out of her mouth, is just how brief I’m talking about. Because what followed was a question that was responsible for no less than 34% of my anxiety. “Aren’t you the one with a brother in jail?”

See, that brief second has come to a close. Yes, it was true. In finding his way through life, my brother did some stupid shit. And my fear, that people would be talking about my families flaws, was real. I’m sure that I could show you exactly where I was standing on that bus, just as I can tell you exactly how that felt. And it never felt like she was being mean, just that she was curious.

Although she had never spoken to me before, she was good friends with Brendan’s older brother. In fact, a few weeks before, she provided the highlight of my 6th grade year. Again, at Brendan’s to play Nintendo, but there’s a knock on the door and his mom answers the door. Standing in the pouring rain was Bridget and her friend, completely soaked. That’s it, that was the best moment of 6th grade. But I promise you, it was epic.

So how was I transported back to this very specific moment in 1989 on a random Monday, during a pandemic, in 2020? Well, my nephew, who I adore and consider to be one of my personal heroes, made the news. And it wasn’t a good thing. My nieces and nephews have been through the ringer. Lost a parent in a DUI accident when they were toddlers, a mom who has battled addiction since Reagan was in office, been in foster care. The list goes on, and it really sucks.

My nephew did a really really stupid thing a couple of weeks ago, and that ended up leading to his arrest. Then he took that awful decision, and he doubled down. With the understanding that the dealer had a 20, and he was showing a five, he doubled down and somehow escaped from custody. Leading to one of my more stressful days, and the tragic moment of gratitude, where I was thankful that he’s white. Because that made him significantly safer, but it didn’t make him safe. So for a few hours, I kept my eyes on the news and even left the ringer on my phone on. Scared to death that this was going to end very badly.

It might sound like it, but I’m not at all ashamed of him. Just as I wasn’t ashamed of my brother in 1989. Angry, yeah, I’m pretty angry with him. But mostly I’m worried. I’m worried about him, and why he’s making such bad choices right now. He was recently married, and has a baby that’s just two months old. He has two other sons from a previous relationship, and I’ve seen him with his boys. He’s a great father. So while the news might say he’s 27 and accused of this or that crime and shouldn’t be approached, I see that he’s still a really scared 12 year old boy. Because years aren’t real, and all the horrible shit he’s been through, and survived, just happened to him. And that’s why my nieces and nephews are my heroes. Because they still seek love. They still want love. They still want TO love. They survive, they matter and till the day I die, they’ll always be loved.