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Celebrating Family Birthdays in 2020


I’ve enjoyed writing for many years. I'm dedicating more time to the craft in my retirement days.

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Celebrating Family Birthdays in 2020

We celebrated my son’s birthday on Friday, 23 October 2020.

He ‘s 23 years old now, was born in 1997 in Alabama when I was a student at one of many schools I attended while in the Service. He lives in an apartment here in town while he’s pursuing his master’s degree at the University of Idaho.

On the morning of his birthday I made his favorite cake – Angel Food – and my wife frosted it and decorated it with lemon frosting, which is also his favorite. We bought him some candles for his cake, too, picking up both a 24 pack of the small ones and one each number ‘2’ and number ‘3’. It’s always nice to have on hand both varieties in case someone unexpectedly voices a preference or something.

We also ate Panda Express for lunch that day because it’s one of my son’s favorite places, as well. He likes the Honey Walnut Shrimp; my wife likes the Super Greens; I like the combo with Honey Walnut Shrimp and Teriyaki Chicken. My son drinks the medium Dr. Pepper and I get the freakishly large Coke. We always get an egg roll or two, also, and sometimes we even have the Cream Cheese Rangoon. Today was definitely one of those times. I wish they’d make it a Crab Rangoon instead, but I suppose that’s more expensive and probably doesn’t keep as well, either. In any case, Panda was great and we really enjoyed the meal.

Thing is, though, that we didn’t get to enjoy any of it together. We had to enjoy all of it apart, which made it quite a bit less enjoyable, actually.

We ordered Panda for takeout, packaged up his birthday cake and drove across town to pick up our lunch and deliver all the goods to my son at his apartment. When we stopped in front of his place, and while donning our masks, my wife said, “Oops, we forgot to get his candles.”

We walked up to his second-floor apartment, knocked on the door and handed over our delivery without crossing the threshold. My wife told him we’d be back shortly with candles, to which he nodded assent or agreement or appreciation. In any case, he nodded, and we departed in a bit of a mad dash—for some inexplicable reason—to get to the grocery store and back as quickly as we could.

On our return to my son’s apartment, my wife waited in the car while I donned my mask, ran up the stairs, knocked on the door, and handed over the bag of candles to my son. Once again, I did not cross the threshold, just simply handed over the goods to my boy. As I did, I could see across the room the dining table set for a solo lunch of Panda Express food and drink.

I wished my son a happy birthday again, told him I hoped he had a really good rest of his day, and moved down the stairs as quickly as these old arthritic legs could take me. When I hopped in the car, my bride put it into gear and drove to a vacant church parking lot a few blocks away and parked. There I ate my meal from a Styrofoam box as it sat in my lap. My wife was able to hold her much smaller Super Greens entrée in one hand while consuming it with the other using the provided plastic fork.

While we were dining, our son texted us a picture of his fortune cookie fortune:


We wished him luck on whatever he thought that might be, thinking and suggesting it might be him getting selected for a Fulbright scholarship, for example. He wrote back and said, “It says always, something you’ve always desired,” meaning very literally, I guess, that the Fulbright is just something that came up since he learned about it while in college. It's not something he has always desired.

I sent back to my son a picture of our fortune:


Somehow we only got two fortune cookies with our three entrees, so this was the only one my wife and I had. I ate the cookie myself while we “argued” over whose fortune it should really be for a few moments, and then laughed pretty hard when our son responded, “Hmmm” on seeing the picture of it.

As I was reading his response on my phone, I also noticed that both renditions of "Happy Birthday" I sang and texted to him that morning were gone. I forgot they expired and self-deleted after a time unless you save them. Oh well, there’s always next year, I guess. I am hoping on hope we won’t have to celebrate this same way by then.

"Here comes the snow," my wife said. I looked up to see the flakes drifting down, increasing in size and number every few seconds. The weatherman had been saying all week we were supposed to get nearly half a foot of the white stuff that afternoon for our first snowfall of the year. It was not a particularly welcome sight.

© 2020 greg cain


greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 26, 2020:

Sha Sha - It was kind of sad, but only in retrospect did I really feel any of that. For example, when I read this essay to my wife, I had a hard time getting through it all without cracking. Still, when you look at it through a different lens, we actually DID get to spend it together so that's a tick mark on the plus side. Physical separation is a thing, but it's not everything I guess. Happy that you are able to be with your son, though, so then you don't have to convince yourself that it's "just as good," or "almost as good" to celebrate virtually.

I might toss a little ire in your direction for putting the whammy on me with your 84° weather, though. My daughter is down there in FL, too, so I get it from her on occasion, too. We've got a good 3-4 inches of snow on the ground still this morning, but it'll be gone by Wednesday. And in any case, I am still riding, snow or no.

Be well, and have a good week, Sha Sha.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 26, 2020:

S.P. - I truly do hope things are different by next year at this time. That would be a blessing, for sure. Meantime, we will do the best we can to celebrate under extant circumstances. Given the state of technology today, we are in better position than ever to be together even when we are apart. Be well and be safe.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 26, 2020:

Fran - I definitely could not agree more. With just a few simple measures, I think we could very easily grasp control instead of flailing hopelessly, wildly, grasping at straws and putting our heads in the sand. I also am very glad you will get opportunity to celebrate with your son on his day. Enjoy that time with family, be safe and be well, Miss Fran.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 26, 2020:

John - FaceTime is a godsend! I mentioned to Lorna in a comment below that events of that day subsequent to me writing this essay proved that FaceTime can add value and joy to the birthday occasion, too! Hope you got to celebrate and express your love for family on their special days, John. Be well, and have a good week.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 26, 2020:

Bill - same birthday? Must be a helluva guy. We all three had Angel Food cake for our birthdays this year. Lemon frosting on top is the pièce de résistance, of course, but even without it an Angel Food cake is heavenly. I love how easy they are to make nowadays with a box from the grocery. Anyway, yes, we did make the most of it, made it memorable. I still have hope that this won't be the "new normal," but we can and will adjust if that comes to pass. For my part, I am willing to wait and do what it takes to survive before we attempt to reintroduce any- and everything from days of old.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 26, 2020:

Eric - there is no doubt in my mind that one and all will remember this year's birthday celebration for my son in a way we don't remember others over the years. It was enjoyable if very, very different, and I think it'll become part of the annual conversation, much like the, "son, on the day you were born, Daddy was watching the World Series, Game 5. The Marlins were playing the Indians when all of a sudden..."

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 26, 2020:

Lorna - thanks for the lovely comment; you are right that it was "still full of love which has its own language." We certainly didn't spend much time complaining about what we couldn't do, instead focusing on what we could that was good. And in that we found quite a bit to celebrate. Indeed, as a sort of update to the article: when he and his roomies went to light the candles on the cake after their dinner, they discovered that they didn't have a lighter. My son texted us and I ended up driving across town in the snow storm to deliver one to them. On my way, my wife lost power at home, as did most of the people on our side of town, but not my son's. So...I delivered a lighter and the boys invited me to stay and sing happy birthday from across the room, which I did. I Facetimed my wife--who I couldn't see because she was in the dark--and I held the phone up from across the room so she could see our son and the boys, and we all sang happy birthday, off-key and out of sync due to the distance my wife's voice had to go over the cellular link. It was wonderful.

Lorna, your observation that every number represents an entire family affected is so right on, so chilling, so sad. It is reminiscent to me of trying to fathom numbers of people killed in the world wars, how many other millions on top of that who are affected by the deceased's departure. It is no wonder mental health facilities and personnel such as yourself are stretched to the limit. Thank you for being there for so many, though, Lorna. I'm certain your efforts have an outsized impact. Ireland's second wave sounds familiar to my ears. We have numbers now on the rise again ourselves, breaking daily records across the land for new cases and deaths. Heartbreaking is the right word for it.

Hope you continue to be safe and well, Lorna. Thanks again.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 26, 2020:

John - it wasn't exactly what anyone would have envisioned, no, but we did do our level best to make the best of it. We had many smiles that day, and it will be for all of us one to remember. We are doing the pragmatic thing because it is the right thing to do. Additionally, our son has been very forthright and explicit about his feelings on the matter; he won't expose my wife and I to his "larger circle." He attends some in-person classes at the university, and he has two roommates who also attend in-person classes and/or teach in-person classes. When we do see him, we are all at a distance and wearing masks. While we are operating under a mask mandate in our city, this choice is ours together as a family and we are all "comfortable" with it. Certainly as comfortable as anyone can be about these things. It will affect upcoming holidays, too, and we will do what we have to do. When I look at the listing of Australia numbers you posted, it is quite an eye opener. Your municipalities seem to have generally put in place strictures that are having positive effect on overall numbers. We have no such uniform action or mandates in the states, as I'm sure everyone in the world knows. In my own state, it is city by city, business by business as to whether or not something as simple as wearing a mask is required. While there are many of us taking precautions to stop the spread, there are still too many who are not and who seemingly never will. And so it goes...

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 25, 2020:

Happy Birthday to your son, Box. It's sad that you couldn't spend his special day together. My son still lives at home so we don't have to social distance from each other.

Hopefully, next year will be better and you hug your son while you wolf down some Panda Express.

Sorry, 'bout the snow. It's 84 and breezy here with no humidity. Quite pleasant, actually.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on October 25, 2020:

It is so difficult to not celebrate events as a family unit these days. I think it's great that all of you were able to stick to the tradition even if it was slightly different. Hopefully next year things are different.

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on October 24, 2020:

Love the way you celebrated his birthday. If everyone simply followed a few rules NOT LIKE BIG RALLYS, NO MASK IDIOTS ARE DOING, we could lick this virus. Thanks for sharing!. My son's birthday 10/29 but since I'm old and live with him we can be together.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on October 24, 2020:

My youngest son’s birthday was 18th October and daughter’s is on the 25th but can’t be with either of them because they live too far away...thank God for FaceTime.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 24, 2020:

Hey, same birthday as my son, and angel food cake his my favorite. Very cool!

Our new normal! That's pretty much how we celebrated his birthday. Oddly, I found it touching, and reflected on how we humans can adjust to unpleasantness. You and your wife made it a meaningful and love-filled birthday for him, and that's all that counts.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 24, 2020:

I must have a screw loose up there. I found this to be a cool memorable birthday. Probably one you will never forget. I am sure your son will always remember it fondly. Sometimes I forget that children are proud of their parents as we are of them.

Lorna Lamon on October 24, 2020:

This is the sad reality that many of us are living with at the moment, and even though you were not able to share his birthday in person, it was still full of love which has it's own language.

The figures for America are heart-breaking with each one a grieving family. Ireland is in the grips of a second wave which is much worse than the first. Mental health has never been worse and sometimes I dread going into the clinic, even though it is so necessary. Thank you for sharing your son's birthday Greg and I hope that we can all get back to some kind of normal soon. I wish him a Happy Birthday.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on October 23, 2020:

Greg, it must be so hard not being able to share your son's birthday in person. We had a few months early in the year when we were unable to travel more than 50km except in an emergency, so as all our children live in different towns we couldn't see them. At least you made his birthday work as best you could.

If we were in the same town we could have, and now in this State, Queensland, the only restriction we have is that State borders are closed, and establishments are limited to 10 customers in-store at a time (supermarkets excluded.)

Here are our current statistics.

Australia cases

Updated 24 Oct at 11:00 am local








Victoria is our state with the most cases and they have had riots due to their football grand final being on this weekend and moved to Queensland to be played. They can't travel so they are unable to attend their own football final, and can't watch on TV in more than groups of ten.

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