A birthday party was the perfect prescription for those of us trying to wrestle with the state of our nation and the new administration in Washington, D.C. Our friend Dave invited us to share his birthday. Nothing fancy. No presents. Just a few friends, snacks, drinks and a small cake.
Dave lives just a few miles from our house and the 2pm start meant we had enough time to socialize and get home for the two NFL playoff games. We have priorities!!
We heard laughter as we arrived. Always a good sign. I counted maybe eight faces as we went inside. Good for me. My poor hearing means I don’t do well in large groups. I looked around and knew everyone. Another good sign. There would be no forced conversation with strangers.
It was a (mostly) baby boomer gathering and birthday boy, Dave could’ve been singing “When I’m 64.” He wasn’t singing. I promised myself I wouldn’t discuss politics. After a few hugs, kisses, and handshakes, guess who and what was the focus of our jibber-jabber? No one mentioned his name, the new President. The guy with the orange hair. President Obama’s successor. The reality show star. But we could feel his eerie presence, lurking like a shadow.
The conversation ranged from new cabinet nominees, to health care, to repeated questions about how this guy became our Commander-In-Chief. Even though half the folks in the room were normally Republicans, no one (apparently) had voted for him. But someone voted for him because he’s in the White House.
Meanwhile, talk about health care and the lack there of, not to mention the unfortunate quality of same, segued into cemetery plots. The cost of burials. We compared traditional burials with cremation. Marilyn reminded us about drive-through cremation, the economical alternative to getting planted in the traditional way. Francesca said they bury them vertically in parts of Italy because there’s no more room. The burial biz could be bigger than plastics for new graduates. There was a longish couple of silences while we all digested how we would each have to deal with “the big sleep”… possibly sooner rather than later.
Time for the birthday cake and a round of “Happy Birthday” for Dave. We sang with gusto, each in our own key. Our enthusiasm compensated for lack of musical talent.
It wasn’t an easy segue. I asked a couple how their kids were doing. They are now young adults, one in college, another graduating high school. Another long pause and segue into the cost of college. Would Mom and Dad be around to see how their daughter and son fared professionally? A bit of a crap shoot, that.
We segued back to cemeteries and the cost of dying. Someone talked about time payments. Apparently, if you don’t keep up your payments, some places will dig up the bodies and stack them like cord wood. We laughed. Ruefully.
I noticed everyone casting furtive glances around the room. I blushed a little because I realized I was the oldest in our gathering. Marilyn assured me I look younger than her, certainly younger than my years. Thanks, Mar.
I looked at my watch and loudly announced we had to get home to feed the dogs, my best move to end the talk about dying and the prohibitive cost of funerals, not to mention grave maintenance. You need a multi-generational maintenance contract or they’ll toss your bones in the big pit. In any case, it’s not like you’ll be around to make sure they keep their end of the bargain.