My wife's birthday was April 17th. We planned to go to Pismo Beach with all our family. We had a house rented and many plans arranged. The Pandemic changed all that. Instead, I ordered her a present on Amazon, and she cooked a meal for my son and me. Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!
Our friend, Craig Walker, had a milestone birthday on March 26th. He describes how he adjusted to the Pandemic below. I admire his resiliency and humor:
Today is my 80th birthday. That is a milestone because not everyone gets to celebrate theirs. I am really fortunate. Originally, we had planned to have a family reunion on Catalina Island. My sister was coming from Seattle and one daughter was coming from Pittsburgh and one from Flagstaff. We set this up last year and had hotel rooms booked. That is the way an 80th birthday should be: surrounded with family as one transitions into old age. I think that you are not old until you turn 80.
My how quickly things change. Now I get to celebrate in isolation with social distancing. So, I got online and looked up what I could do today to celebrate. It seems that no one had thought to put out ideas for celebrating a birthday. From what I could gather, the only thing that I can do is walk the dog. That advice must have caused a run on puppies at pet stores, because not everyone has a dogThat sounds silly, but actually is a very appropriate birthday idea. I can celebrate that at 80, I can still walk, and that I still recognize my dog. Do you remember Oliver Sacks, who wrote a book about a man who thought that his wife was his hat? So later today, I can celebrate that I still can walk, and that I know that Bandit is my dog and not my hat.
I need a cake but we can’t bake one. We don’t have any cake mix or an oven. I could go down to Albertson’s and buy a cake. It would say, “Happy birthday” and even have my name on it. But at our age, is it worth possibly exposing myself to the virus for a cake? Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake.” I have always religiously followed her advice out of respect for the wisdom of history. You see, in my study of history, I discovered that the French revolution was really caused by the lack of cake for the common people. There is a rumor that as she was being dragged to her death, she was loudly shouting, “….and ice cream.” Can I be so audacious as to ask a younger person to go and get a cake for my birthday and risk their health?
The funny thing is that Barbara and I had the virus in January. I ticked all of the boxes and we never had anything like that before. But with our unconfirmed status, any protective effect of having had the virus remains unknown. I would hate to assume that we are immune and end up dead wrong.
As I write this, I am looking out the front window at an old man walking his dog. He is not a neighbor that I recognize. That is one good thing about our crises. We are getting out of the house and being seen. I have this urge to rush out (I can still catch him) and ask if he is celebrating his birthday by walking the dog. To be sure of the soundness of his mind, I would have to ask him about his position on the French Revolution, if it is his birthday today, and if that is really his dog or his hat. Not wanting to embarrass him, I stave off my psychiatric tendencies. I let him pass unmolested, knowing (like some political leaders) that I am the smartest person in the room. Except now there is no one in the room.
I just went on a bike ride. Actually, it isn’t a bike, but a trike. Don’t think of a kid’s trike, this is low and sleek. I could have bought a pretty good used car for what this cost. I was amazed to see how many whole families were out walking their dogs. I’ve been riding the same route for 50 years and this was something that I have never seen before. I’m not supposed to ride in traffic, but with 12 miles and only 3 cars, so I don’t think that my doctor would mind.
I don’t know if anyone was walking to celebrate their birthday. They might have been celebrating Bastille Day, which is July 14. So, I didn’t yell “Happy Birthday” as I passed. Instead, I yelled “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” which I knew would apply to everyone.
I am back home now. We are alone and far from family. It is my birthday, but we have no cake. There is just my wife and me here. We have been lovers for 55 years. We lower the blinds and lock the doors. We decide to finish this day of birthday celebration by going into profound retirement, as lovers tend to do. But I am still hoping for cake.
Consider these thoughts about Mindful Words from my wife, Cindy:
It is amazing that a little pack of yeast makes bread rise up and fill out. Words we speak to our children can cause our children to rise up or deflate. What kind of words are we using?
It's really important to be mindful of the words we communicate to our children during this intense time together. We need to be careful not to bemoan their being home from school, for this may have the unintended impact of long lasting deflation in their spirits. We can intentionally show and tell them how much we love, like and value them.
If this is a constant difficulty, it could help to recognize the challenges many of us and our children are experiencing. We need to cut ourselves and our kids a break. Maybe we won't get as much done, but we'll retain our sanity. We can resolve that life will never be perfect, but it can still be great. Then we can get ourselves out for a good walk, bike ride, or whatever recharges our batteries.
It's good to read poetry in a pandemic. A poem of hope was constructed by Kwame Alexander. He gave friends on social media two paintings to look at for inspiration: Kadir Nelson's Heatwave and Salvador Dali's Young Woman At A Window. Both show women inside looking longingly out into the world. People were asked to send in their poetic reflections, and he constructed a poem, combining their thoughts in a style called an ekphrastic poem*. One line in the poem that stands out is this: She is transforming. I ask: How am I transforming more into the kind of person that God desires? How is the love and work of Christ, working in me? -Even in the midst of social distancing? Social Distance
Summer bears down on the city like granny's old quilt
Her potted plant swoons on the ledge out of breath. Eyes closed, attuned to a second skin of sweat, she stretches neck and torso, searching for a cool note rising from the street below.
The Fantastical Queen Her Crown of wrapped locks The jewels in her melanin Sparkle her body slick in Brooklyn's summer oiled mahogany
From her window she holds court She reigns where dogs interact with rainbows For her, plants bow their head down low. Hottest Thang In Town Stuck inside all day.
She opens all the windows, her imagination of freedom something to hold onto.
Only half there her mind is far off Across the world.
kayaking quietly gazing at glaciers watching waves dance a boat out to sea
The sea breeze blowing against her loneliness Perched up in the hills Overlooking a world of fraud Soul ready to sail away
You see, smart women bend
like stems grabbing at the light
muscles coat limbs
as eyelids stalk the horizon
to calculate what comes next
drought or a wall of water
high cheekbones not afraid to climb out
or crawl up.
It is the same horizon no matter the color. The same sun.
Guess that's how Rapunzel felt Staring freedom in its face Terrified of the unknown But wanting to escape Quarantined by society Restricted by these walls.
Shouting streets stilled people's voices wilted like plants. no dinner with friends.
The sea is forever capricious A mercurial creature with fickle temperament The gentle blue of harbor water hides its ferocity Like a wolf in sheepskin
But, she will not wilt.
Sometimes as day descends The dog can have the fabricated ice, the artificial colors. She takes the water cool and clear, and The city's façade can't hold her, from sailing away on the tide of night.
She sees herself in the sky. in the muddied turquoise of the curtain In the warm turquoise of the window frame in the gentle peace that shall not last.
She is not thinking about the next time they will see each other She is not thinking about the last time they saw each other She is not thinking about the empty grocery shelves She is not thinking about the furrowed frowning eyebrows She is not thinking about the word quarantine and why it sounds so social She is not thinking about the way her lungs hold onto air like making love to molecules She is not thinking about the grandmother and grandfather in Apt 2c She is not thinking about whether clouds are aware of their silly shapes and feel self-conscious She is not thinking about whether the butter will last
At the window, she considers that She is not who she was, and she is not who she will be. She is transforming. She will be strong and resilient. She will be honest with herself and those she loves. She will have stories to tell And when she does They will no longer shake her voice.
From here, she will see the anxiety, the worry, paint over its bold permanence, like oil and acrylic on canvas. From here, She HOPES, offering it to neighbors from a safe distance. From here, she SINGS, transcending the dark somber strain From here, She BELIEVES, we will get through this From here, today will be good, and tomorrow will be better.
*This community poem was created using submissions by:
We are here for you. We may not be seeing one another in person, but we are making adjustments to connect. This Sunday at 10 am we will have our worship service on our Facebook page and on our website. After Sunday's service if you would like to join an online face to face meeting, we will meet up on Zoom. Email me if you want to do this, and I’ll tell you how. We look forward to talking together; like a conversation on the courtyard patio.
I have included some links to helpful articles for seniors and families for dealing with the impact of COVID-19. Look for them below this note.
During these unusual times with so many things being shut down including church, we want to remember that God is with us. As we hunker down and do our part not to spread this virus, let’s invite God into our homes and hearts afresh. May the Lord's peace flow to us and through us.
Let’s unite our hearts in prayer for those who are sick around the world; out of work; struggling to figure out what to do; isolated; and vulnerable. May God provide all the means, comfort and care.