Today’s my son’s birthday. We were planning a birthday party for him, before. “You know this year you get to have a big party, right?” I’d said to him. “Make sure you’re thinking about what you want to do and the friends you’ll want to invite.”
Fortunately, my baby-surgery recovery and our other birthdays made it so we didn’t get past that point in conversations. I didn’t have anyone or anything reserved. We hadn’t invited people. All that happened is that, when Utah’s governor first announced the schools were closing, my son asked, “What about my birthday?”
“Well, we’ll plan to have it after school’s back in session. If things go longer, we’ll have it in September.”
Looking at maps of the spread of Coronavirus, I’m thinking we’ll push his party till next year.
Global case numbers are reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) in their coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation reportexternal icon. ©2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Another event’s been affected by all this, for us. Kev (my husband) and I were planning on our first-ever trip to Europe. We had to commit to going last year, and have been paying toward it. I’ve also been stressing about it; thinking and praying about whom to leave which boy with for three weeks.
Although the organizers have not officially told us this is the case, we think it will be cancelled. More than the money is the idea that I was *this close* to something that’s been on my bucket list since I was a girl. Not much is still on that list, mostly because humans haven’t developed self-aviation.
Birthday parties, vacation plans, weddings, funerals, baby blessings, Disneyland, the dentist… all cancelled.
We’re not the only ones affected. A friend complained about missing their family cruise. Another listed all the concerts she couldn’t attend. What whiners, right? There are people dying after near-suffocation from a disease they contracted at Wal-mart.
But, we are not trying to be shallow. We are dealing with massive change.
My favorite example of this, pre-COVID-19, is in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. <Spoiler Alert> Planet Earth is bulldozed to make way for a hyperspace expressway. The protagonist, Arthur Dent, escapes with Ford Prefect (an alien in disguise) just before the bureaucratic aliens known as Vogons blast us to nothing. Arthur is an Everyman. When Ford tells him what’s happened, he can’t grasp that Earth and everyone on it is gone.
“There was no way his imagination could feel the impact of the whole Earth having gone, it was too big. He prodded his feelings by thinking that his parent and his sister had gone. No reaction. He thought of all the people he had been close to. No reaction. Then he thought of a complete stranger he had been standing behind in the queue at the supermarket two days before and felt a sudden stab: the supermarket was gone, everyone in it was gone! Nelson’s Column had gone! and there would be no outcry, because there was no one left to make an outcry! From now on Nelson’s Column only existed in his mind. England only existed in his mind. A wave of claustrophobia closed in on him.
“He tried again: America, he thought, has gone. He couldn’t grasp it, He decided to start smaller again. New York has gone. No reaction. He’d never seriously believed it existed anyway. The dollar, he thought, has sunk for ever. Slight tremor there. Every ‘Bogart’ movie has been wiped, he said to himself, and that gave him a nasty knock. McDonald’s, he thought. There is no longer any such thing as a McDonald’s hamburger.
“He passed out.”
I remembered this quote as I drove around on my once-a-week errands, feeling a slight jolt at empty restaurants and neon signs about what part of which business was open. I remembered the quote while we watched LDS General Conference this morning; while the camera panned over an empty exterior shot of the building where 21,000 people would have been meeting.
General Conference, April 2019. Thanks to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for the picture.
The good news is that I think I’m through all the Stages of Grief now. I skipped from Shock to Depression, swung back to Emotionless, and am now resigned to Acceptance. My family and I are still here, are fine, and are just staying home. I can stay here in my own, four walls. I don’t need to worry about what if because those who are in charge have removed the stresses I had, outside of my four walls. If IT can stay outside those walls as well, then we’re set for months.
And, we’re making lemonade out of lemons. My son and his brother set up a Minecraft server and invited his classmates. We’ll wait and see what happens with Europe. The LDS church leaders are broadcasting from a small room, with their chosen speakers sitting six feet apart.
(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) General Conference begins at a small auditorium in the Church Office Building with top leaders socially distanced amid the coronavirus pandemic. ©2020 The Salt Lake Tribune
I’ll bake a birthday cake and make enchiladas from the ingredients I picked up from my store order yesterday. I’ll wrap the presents our postman delivered. I’ll remember to look at this from my son’s perspective, because all he wants is a happy birthday.
©2020 Chelsea Owens