Today is my 80th birthday.
Before a few comments about that, here’s to Grandson Parker, who is also a birthday boy, 18 years old today. Like all in his cohort, his end-of-senior year will not be traditional: there is no senior baseball, his sport. He’s very good. From an early time (see below photo) I could see particular intensity in Parker when he watched a ball being thrown, or hit. He was studying the game. Parker, and all, we’ll get through this, somehow. And all best for your college years. Happy Birthday!
Saturday I was out for a solitary drive, just to get out for a while. I was in nearby country (there are still patches of country, here and there, in the city). Driving north on Kimbro Ave, I saw a sign that spoke to me, so stopped to take a ‘pitcher’. Shortly a man came up out of nowhere and wondered why I was taking the picture? Was there a problem? “No“, I answered. “Monday I’m 80 and this street sign caught my attention.” We had. brief pleasant chat, and I was on my way.
In most respects, this should be a most ordinary birthday. COVID-19 has changed a few plans.
The most recent birthdays I witnessed were unusual in very different ways. Ashley, daughter of good friends, turned 20 about 10 days ago, and her parents invited us to a party in the parking lot of their business, Third Act, essentially shuttered by the crisis. They went by the rules: There were about ten of us; recommended spacing 10 feet. Outdoors. It was nice, but unusual. Ashley wore a new birthday tee for the birthday “the one where I was quarantined“.
Later in the week, on a city street, I passed a house with a lot of cars, and a sign celebrating someone’s first birthday. There was no evidence of ‘social distance’. So it goes.
Birthdays come and they go. This one, there were plans for a larger get-together, but that was shelved early on. So, we’ll “gather the chickens” via Zoom this afternoon, and chat a bit in this new normal.
I especially remember my Dad’s 80th birthday this year, Dec. 22, 1987. My sister and I joined him at Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville IL – east suburban St. Louis. He had moved there in the late summer, and decided to train to be ready to do a 15 minute walking mile on his 80th birthday. At 6’3″ he had a head start on both of us, and he accomplished his goal, easily. Today I did my normal couple of miles, but not at quite Dad’s pace.
This day, this year, for everyone of us, will be unusual, to say the very least. It was two months ago that daughter Lauri suggested to me that it was time to lay low, to try to evade the pandemic.
My generation is the most at risk from this pandemic. Those caskets we see on the news are mostly people of my generation who’ve died from COVID-19. A few days ago was the unwanted milestone of more deaths from the virus in a couple of months than in ten years of the Vietnam War. And we’re just getting started. I’m grateful to those who took the courageous step of basically closing our country down to control the spread.
But we can’t forget the others: Parkers cohort ends this school year under a very uncertain cloud; legions of people who work in any occupation of any kind face uncertainties, including health, they probably couldn’t imagine six months ago. On and on and on. In short, we are all in perilous times.
How we as a society deal with this down the road remains to be seen. We’re at a fork in the road, testing where we are as a people. It’s up to all of us. “Government” is us, period. The buck stops with everyone of us.
New Years Day I was scribbling some calculations on a restaurant napkin. Q: “What are you doing?” A: “The number of seconds in my life so far.”
At 80 years old, 2,522,880,000 seconds. That’s two and a half BILLION seconds. Quite a long while. Everyone are trudging along the same path, at different points on the road. Lots of seconds to account for.
Some suggestions: about 10 years ago I put together a little heritage workshop so people could personally explore their own heritage; how they came to be who they are. If you’re interested, here’s the thought starter sheet: Heritage 001. Suggestion: pick two or three words off the list, and think of memories from your own life about them. Remember, you’re thinking of your own life, not anyone else’s….
This might lead to thoughts about what your personal legacy to humanity will be. Here’s a definition: “The dictionary would define Legacy as a gift or a bequest, that is handed down, endowed or conveyed from one person to another. It is something descendible one comes into possession of that is transmitted, inherited or received from a predecessor…A legacy is the story of some ones life, the things they did, places they went, goals they accomplished, their failures, and more. Legacy is something that a person leaves behind to be remembered by. Legacies are pathways that guide people in decisions with what to do or what not to do.”
As a certified senior citizen, let me make a couple of other suggestions. First, we are a terribly divided society and it long pre-dated this particular crisis. A short while ago, I came across a favorite quotation I first saw over tend years ago. Take a look, it’s short: Dialogue.
The last in-person group meeting I attended was part three of a six part lecture series on “Becoming Human”. The last three were cancelled due to COVID-19. All six are now on-line, and all are excellent food for thought. Here are the links. They are all approximately one hour in length, all by faculty at St. Thomas University in St. Paul MN. Here are the links (more information at the end of the post entitled Spring:
Week One: Dr. David Williard: Civil War to Civil Rights
Week Two: Dr. Jessica Siegel: The War on Drugs
Week Three: Dr. Amy Levad: Mass Incarceration
Week Four: Dr. Amy Finnegan: Defeating the “White Savior” Complex
Week Five: Dr. Michael Klein: Mobilizing for Social Change
Week Six: Dr. Kimberley Vrudny: The Blackness of God
POSTNOTE #1: This afternoon we did a drive-by, delivering cakes to 7 different families in our family constellation, since no ‘party’ as such was advisable. Daughter Lauri shared her moment of fame on local news with this most interesting clip.
Daughter Joni is Principal of Oltman Middle School in suburban Cottage Grove. Schools are closed for the remainder of the year due to COVID-19, educating by distance learning. Today, Oltman faculty starred in a parent-student drive-by “parade”, where cars with students and parents were entertained by school faculty along the driveway. It was a great event to witness and to be part of. Here are a couple of photos.
POSTNOTE #2: If you are the person who actually followed this all the way to the end, here’s today’s Just Above Sunset, “The Rest of the World”. One of my tasks today will be to write to my own state and national elected government officials with my own opinion. I’m only a single voice, but I am that single voice.