Celebration When You Don’t Feel Like It


This has been a strange, difficult week. The world is topsy-turvy, fear and loathing rising in so many hearts, tempers short—even among people who agree—and tears flowing. Since Tuesday’s election, most of my friends and family are either numb or angry or both.


Nevertheless, last night I hosted a dinner part for Ralph’s 70th birthday. A month ago when I asked him how he wanted to celebrate his birthday, he said he didn’t want to celebrate it at all.

But that felt wrong. So I decided to make his favorite dinner, roast chicken with mashed potatoes, and invite only people he is genuinely comfortable with these days.

I invited everyone over a week ago. But on Wednesday I thought of cancelling the dinner. Five of the seven invited were/are in major distress and the other couple I was afraid to ask because I politics is a touchy subject. I was afraid the “celebration” might turn into a verbal brawl or be lugubrious at best. But my depressed friends said no, push on.

Ralph was oblivious. He is well aware of the election but he was mostly just not happy we were having a bunch of people over. “Why celebrate that I’m getting old.” As I slaved over a lemon meringue pie filling that wasn’t thickening, I wondered why I was bother myself.

First to arrive was our friend N, who called ahead to ask if she could wear her Hillary t-shirt, since she doesn’t plan to wear anything else for days or weeks to come. I said sure. Then the rest of the election mourners came. They are friends with us but didn’t know each other. Usually that would make for awkward moments, but last night they had plenty to share and discuss. The wine flowed as fast as the conversation. Once our more conservative friends arrived, the politics dropped but the funny cards were opened. And the perfect Ralph gifts: cigars, a pouch labeled BEER MONEY and filled with quarters, and an antique lighter. He was in his element.

We ate our chicken and mashed potatoes (delicious) and our lemon pie (runny). We told stories about and toasted Ralph. We laughed a lot. At the end of the evening we all hugged.

It was cathartic and a lovely reminder that life goes on.

Then just before everyone was out the door, someone glanced at his cell phone:           Leonard Cohen had died.

“It doesn’t matter which you heard/The holy or the broken hallelujah”

As I said, life has to go on.

10 thoughts on “Celebration When You Don’t Feel Like It

  1. What a week, indeed! Your celebration of Ralph’s birthday hit just the right note. I actually read your post some hours ago but hadn’t heard of Leonard Cohen’s death so went off to read about that and the obituaries and remember. I remember when I first heard him singing Suzanne (it would have been a record, not a CD – even tapes hadn’t been invented then) in our common room in my last year of school.
    I’ve been in the numb camp, taking a hermit-like attitude, to the election result. However, I’m slowly accepting that is not a good attitude – what happens in America affects us all. The world of politics seems totally topsy-turvy both here and there but, as you say, the life goes on and we have to listen out for the hallelujahs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Suzanne was my first Leonard Cohen too. A few years ago, Ralph and I were driving somewhere when we heard an interview with an Iranian journalist who had been inprisoned for months by the Iranian government. He said one way he kept himself sane was singing Sisters of Mercy to himself, recognizing the lovely irony of a Muslim finding solace in a song about Catholic nuns written by a Jew. I wish I could remember the journalist’s name, but I love that story. And meanwhile, you are so right that have to listen out for the hallelujahs. I am finding the strange solace of how friends and family are reaching out to each other after this election.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I always have been fond of this line from Leonard Cohen’s Anthem:
    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That’s how the light gets in.

    It helped me make sense of my deep, debilitating depression and now of my husband’s journey with MCI. Maybe it has something to say about having Donald Trump as President-elect but right now I am seeing no light there.

    I am new here. My husband (I will call him by his name but not the one he is known by, James) is about the same stage as Ralph and is in the same research study. He was diagnosed with MCI probably due to Alzheimer’s in Jan.,2013. I met Alice at Emory and recently remembered her talking about her blog. I am glad to be connected to people who “get it” about living with and loving someone with MCI. Egg

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Ironically I was there last week for Ralph’s testing during the group meeting time. Would really like to return but I live far away and find scheduling difficult.


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