You couldn’t wait to turn eighteen; twenty-one was a big, if not sober, celebration. At thirty, age seventy seemed a millennium away—still, you were a bit anxious. Forty used to be the signal to begin a mid-life crisis. The Chinese custom was to give gifts to your mother for bringing you into this life, and perhaps because she was likely reaching the end of hers. These days, even fifty is not necessarily considered middle age, and lots of us can look forward to another forty or even fifty years of active living.
My mom lived to be ninety-nine years and six months old. She still had all her teeth and mental faculties. However, my mother did not have a Covid-19 pandemic to deal with.
Now that my seventy-ninth birthday is just a few days away, mortality is weighing heavily on my mind. Yes, I have all my teeth. Yes, I have a relatively mild case of rheumatoid arthritis, which is managed quite nicely with a low-dose medication. Yes, my hammer-toes are annoying and sometimes painful. I walk shorter distances, and I use walking sticks to prevent myself from falling. Nevertheless, I’m a pretty robust seventy-nine-year-old woman who works at the public health department twenty to twenty-nine hours per week. So, why the sudden pre-occupation with mortality—specifically, my own mortality? Because I’m pissed. The number of potential years ahead of me keeps shrinking while the pandemic rages on, preventing me from traveling far or even near. No Montana, no Cambodia, no Paris, and no California. What the heck!
Those years are as gone as the water running down the kitchen drain. There are no returns. You can’t recycle them for slightly used ones. And now I’m left with anger at those who could have helped stop the virus in its tracks, but for political and religious ideology, conspiracy thinking, and just plain ignorance, they stole my years as well as the lives of the unfortunate 700,000 American souls who have died.
We are celebrating my birthday in my niece’s garage. It is too cold for a pool party, and her house—the one big enough to house the whole family comfortably—is undergoing renovations. Why not the garage?