12/30/2014 12:52 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2015

Stanley's Year-End Oddities

The (fairly) new pope makes unexpected headlines. Lately he has said that animals have a right along with humans to go to heaven. That is a good break for Amy, my animal, now entered in the finals for New York's Most Spoiled Cat. Amy's life here is so enviable that she prays to suffer no letdown in the next one. The pope's declaration also resounds with other cats who once resided here and are now deceased: Kid, Sis, Honey. They weren't equally lovable (especially Honey, whom I misnamed). Still, I'd be glad to think they're all lying about the great animal lounge in heaven today.

Though the year 2014 was even-numbered, the pope's statement was among several oddities I've noticed as December rounds out. The amount of stuff in my mailbox seems to grow every day, and it disturbs me that so much paper goes directly, unread, to the garbage. This year one magazine got in the habit of sending me two, even three, copies of each issue; why, I have no idea, given that I usually don't find much to read in even a single copy. Maybe they're compensating for another magazine I really like that occasionally sends me no copy.

This year I heard about and just recently began to subscribe to a car service you summon on your cellphone and that often arrives about when you've hung up. This is a help to me, since I nowadays use a cane or walker. I was assured by a nephew that the service is cheaper than taxis, but I'm learning to check out some corners for secrets. If you ask for a black car, the rate is higher than another kind (something they don't tell you). If the driver goes the wrong way (which has happened), you pay extra. You are asked to rate the driver at the end of the ride, and it he scores less than 4.5 (5 being top), he risks being fired. It isn't just the driver who gets rated; it's the passenger too. Maybe if I come in at less than 4.5, I'm on the list of don't-pick-him-up and am back on the street. You're not supposed to tip, so I don't.

That is certainly not the rule in my apartment building, where tipping the super would seem understood for a life with heat and no dripping faucets. I tip him anyway, because he's helpful and has the daunting job to singlehandedly appease tenants of 40 apartments.

Other oddities from 2014: I paid a late penalty of some $600 on taxes owed to the IRS, accompanied by an explanation for the lateness. After a good number of weeks, the IRS has advised me that they are accepting my explanation and will be sending (but not just yet) a $420 refund. It's not clear what they're doing with the $180 balance (in reserve in case I'm late again?).

At an eye exam this summer, a new eye surgeon advised that it was time for surgery for cataracts on both my eyes. Those surgeries soon got done, and now, unlike before, I see well in the distance and, also unlike before, not so well up close. But my vision is, all in all, better, and I can do a lot without glasses. In fact, I like my new glasses best when I don't have them on.

I published a new book this year and, since the publisher offers no help in selling it, I've asked for assistance from a recent college graduate who is savvy about the world of social media, where I'm at sea. I'm glad for her help, although one site where I now belong chastises me if time goes by and I haven't planted any piece of news. And they do watch that.

Perhaps the greatest novelty for 2014 was my purchase of a walker in May. This was the culmination of several years of using a cane; the walker is well built and offers security 10 times that of a cane. Because it's red and black and fairly stylish, it often draws attention on the street. You push this wagon (a friend calls it my Ferrari) down the street, and though it hardly seems liberating, actually it is that. It takes broken sidewalks and curbs without flinching, improves my posture, does the carrying of grocery bags in the pouch, and folds into itself to take little room inside. It has much increased my freedom to amble around the neighborhood.

The calendar will soon turn to an odd-numbered year, so more oddities are likely in store. I hope, though, that it won't be the year for Amy to test the pope's belief about a place in heaven for animals -- and indeed no less for family, friends, even myself. Happy and blessed and peaceful 2015.

Stanley Ely writes about aging and living alone as a gay man in his new memoir, Life Up Close, in paperback and ebook.