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.