MINOT, N.D. — This week, I completed my 41st year on earth, and perhaps you will indulge me using some column space to reflect.

Because it's been quite a year.

I won an award from the North Dakota Newspaper Association, which is not something I expected. My politics and my background have often seemed unwelcome in this business.

I almost died. I spent most of December in the hospital fighting off COVID-19, and then many subsequent weeks trudging the long path back to something approaching normal health.

I've always been a resilient person. Too fat, certainly, but still strong and energetic. Active and not often sick. I was a night owl and an early riser, never needing a lot of sleep. My bout with coronavirus has changed that. Even months after finally getting rid of the oxygen tanks, I'm still struggling with fatigue and, if I'm honest, depression.

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But while I have COVID-19 to thank for jolting me, cruelly, into the realities of middle age, I can also thank it for returning to me one of the best things in my life.

I have re-kindled my relationship with my ex-wife.

Our divorce, inexplicably, became a footnote in North Dakota's high-profile U.S. Senate race in 2018. Joel Heitkamp, brother to then-incumbent Heidi Heitkamp, working from a paucity of morality and human decency, and having decided that my criticism of his sister was as apt as it was consequential for her re-election campaign, chose to make an issue out of my divorce, reading my divorce papers on his radio show.

The most scandalous thing he could come up with is the idea that I'm overpaid (my income was reported in the divorce papers as a part of the child support calculation). Still, I had to have a conversation with my ex-wife and children about it. We turned it into a teachable moment.

The most important time to keep speaking, I told my kids, is when awful people try to bully you into silence.

The pandemic and the shutdown of our society it provoked brought Jess and me back together, reminding us of what we'd given up. We'll be married again, one day, but for now, I'm just happy I get to wake up next to her again.

My 41st year also saw my faith in the political movement I've spent most of my adult life promoting shaken. I never liked Donald Trump, it's true, but it wasn't until the Jan. 6 riot that I saw the man and his political movement as the grotesqueries they are.

I still believe in conservative principles.

I wish Republicans cared about them more than they care about loyalty to Trump.

It adds up to a lot for a single year.

Much of it bad; some sublime.

Mostly, I'm just glad I'm still here to push the keys on this keyboard.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com.