We were going to have a big party to celebrate my 50th birthday. The plan was to gather friends and family, have a drink and laugh at my expense: after half a century on the planet, my quirks are well enough established to make easy targets.
Then I had COVID and my party became just another casualty of the pandemic, the latest in a long line of milestones and events that didn’t go as planned.
It’s happened so often that it’s hard to be disappointed. My daughter and I were supposed to go to Europe on her gap year, but that was canceled at the start of the pandemic. The past two Christmases have been extremely modest with only a fraction of the usual extended family gong show. My son’s elementary school graduation was literally a car thing. We all missed something.
And while it certainly seems like there is a section of the population that has decided to go on with their lives regardless of the risk to themselves and others, that’s not how we’ve done it. My parents and mother-in-law are all in their 60s and have a variety of age-appropriate conditions – something else to look forward to – and while I recovered fairly quickly I can certainly see how difficult it would be for those with a less robust immune system. system.
In other words, it seemed stupid and selfish to expose my friends and family: I wanted to receive gifts, not pass on a COVID case as part of the exchange.
In the end, we were incredibly lucky. No one else in my house tested positive, probably thanks to the nearly 10 days I spent in isolation until my symptoms subsided and my own rapid test came back negative. At this point, there were only a few sleeps left before the big day – not enough to plan anything important.
So it was a low-key affair with just my house and several of my favorite things: some Gray Goose vodka, a nice Chardonnay, chicken wings, and gourmet pizza. Peach pie for dessert. There were a few decorations and lots of jokes at my expense, including several about my inability to stay up after midnight these days. And of course I was a birthday pumpkin at 11 p.m.
When the pandemic started, missing things sometimes made me angry – I was certainly disappointed when my children were deprived of milestone moments they will never see again. But over time, I realized that we had been incredibly lucky, all things considered, and that there is joy to be had no matter how big and big the celebration.
COVID has made turning 50 memorable and reminded me, once again, to focus on the things I have and not get too caught up when things don’t go exactly to plan. Gifts come in many shapes and sizes and the prospect and acceptance are sure to be treasured.