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.