It’s Your Birthday, Miss Doris

MINNEAPOLIS—There isn’t much you can do when you’re stuck inside during a quarantine except sit. Sometimes, you catch yourself thinking about what daily life was like before the quarantine, but you try not to think too long about this because you’re stuck indoors and this really stinks.

So you watch the news to stay informed, but this only stresses you out, because each few minutes the reports get worse. And worse.

And worse.

You turn 84 today. What a crummy birthday. It’s a shame because your life is a good one. You live alone because you are in perfect health, except for your hip. Your family all gets along. You have an obedient cat named Harry. In fact, you have all you need.

But a quarantine is a quarantine. No matter how you look at it, it’s the pits.

To be perfectly honest, you’re not sure which is worse, the isolation, or the actual virus. Either way, it’s miserable being in this stuffy house all day where you’re about to die from boredom—not literally, of course.

This morning, you had the ceremonial video calls from your grandkids who wished you happy birthday. That was nice. There were a few people who sent birthday emails. Big whoop. Emails are great, but they only go so far.

Of course you’re not complaining. After all, you’re no stranger to hardship. You have seen tough times. It’s not that. It’s that you miss your family.

So you sit on your easy chair. It’s suppertime. You’re eating your microwaved frozen dinner. Thank God for the grocery delivery service or else you and Harry would have starved.

You turn on the TV. This is your life now. Television. You flip past the news channels because you don’t want to watch more frightening headlines.

You flip past the home-improvement channels where the hosts get deathly excited about things like shiplap. You scroll past the home shopping networks that feature people who practically wet their pants over items like centrifugal vegetable juicers.

Flip, flip, flip.

You stop flipping channels. A Burt Reynolds movie. It’s an old one. Burt looks pretty good. Always did.

You remember the time when your girlfriends threw you that birthday party. You were 36, Marcie brought you a “Cosmopolitan” magazine where Burt was posing shirtless for a pictorial spread. It was a gag gift.

All your friends just died laughing because you have always been so prim and proper. That’s what made the gag so funny. You were the kind of lady who didn’t even allow rum cake into you home.

That was a fun birthday. You ate too much Mexican food. You went to see a movie. This memory makes you cry a little. Not a bucketful of tears, but a few. Because it seems like the world has changed so much in the past couple weeks.

More than anything, you wish Mark was here with you. You met him in high school. You were the only woman he had ever loved. He was your everything. You were both seventeen when you married.

Your grown kids are sick of hearing the story about how you didn’t have money to go on a honeymoon because he spent his savings buying his little sister leg braces to correct her crooked legs. Mark was the most decent man you ever knew.

You wonder what he would have said about all this coronavirus stuff. He would have been a good person to have around. He was always making light hearted jokes, always so level headed. You weren’t afraid around Mark.

You glance at the photo of Mark above the piano.

It makes you feel more lonely. Here you are flipping channels in a dark living room with Harry beside you. You’re depressed, you’re tired, you’re all by yourself. You don’t have the energy God gave a cup of mud. Maybe you’ll just go to bed. What else is there to do?

That’s when you hear something.

What is that noise?

It sounds like…

No. It can’t be.

You stand onto creaky knees. You hobble to the window and peek through the curtain.

What in the world?

A boy is standing in your yard, playing tuba. Then you notice, standing about twenty feet away from him, a little girl is playing snare drum. Thirty feet away from her is a boy playing trumpet. That’s your grandson.

There are more middle-school musicians, all playing band instruments. Standing far apart from one another. A redheaded girl plays the clarinet across the street. A trombone. A coronet. They’re social distancing, but they’re playing the same song.

That’s when you see your son and daughter-in-law. They are on your porch. Behind the glass. So are the rest of your grandkids. They’re all singing “Happy Birthday” along with your grandson’s band.

When they get to the part where everyone sings, “Happy birthday, dear Grandma…” you are overwhelmed. You have to cover your mouth.

You clap for them. You clap very hard. Your family is all blowing kisses. Your heart is full, you are so overcome that you shout to them through your closed door, “I love you! I love you so much! I miss you!”

They all shout, “Happy birthday!”

When it’s over, you shuffle back into your den. You plop into your easy chair. All this stimulation has worn you out. But you are smiling so hard that your cheeks hurt. So you figure, “What the heck?” and you watch the Burt Reynolds movie.

Because it’s your birthday, Miss Doris. And everyone in the whole world loves you. Including me.


  1. Sandi. - April 5, 2020 6:34 am

    Happy Birthday to Miss Doris! A lot of us have birthdays this month and next, and won’t be able to celebrate with relatives and friends, plus there are high school and college graduations, weddings, baby showers, family reunions and vacations that will need to be cancelled or celebrated differently this year. BUT, God is much bigger than what we’re all facing now with this Covid-19 situation. I try to keep that fact in mind when I get blue or lonesome.

  2. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - April 5, 2020 7:52 am

    I sure hope this was a true story. I can’t even imagine how great she felt.
    My brother’s birthday was April 3rd but we buried him right next to my dad last Feb. It’s a 6 space plot & there’s 1 spot left. You guessed it. God ain’t through with m

  3. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - April 5, 2020 7:53 am

    God ain’t through with me yet. 😷

  4. GaryD - April 5, 2020 9:26 am

    Happy Birthday, Doris!

  5. Heidi Gilbert - April 5, 2020 11:23 am

    Thank you Sean. I am a new subscriber, recommended by a mutual friend. Your light is truly a precious gift to us all.

  6. Steve D Hoover - April 5, 2020 12:03 pm

    Maybe I just needed a good cry to start my day? This is very good! Just made me feel like I should change my name to Nancy.

  7. Elizabeth - April 5, 2020 12:10 pm

    Watering down my coffee again, dang it. Happy birthday Miss. Doris.

  8. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - April 5, 2020 12:24 pm

    I’m glad you had a happy birthday, Doris. It makes me smile to hear about your day. I won’t call you Miss Doris, because, unlike Sean, I am not southern.

  9. Peggy Thompson - April 5, 2020 12:48 pm

    Beautiful story…& so true somewhere in this crazy world…Happy Birthday!🎉🎈🙏

  10. Bobbie E - April 5, 2020 1:23 pm

    I am also 84 altho I isn’t my birthday, and this one got to me. Again I say, Sean, you are amazing in your style of writing…it’s not really a style, but stories from the heart. I felt what Doris was feeling, I related to her joy seeing her family who brought her the best gift ever!
    Happy birthday Doris, and to all the birthday people out there. God bless you all. And thanks again Sean for these few moments each morning. ❤️

  11. Jean - April 5, 2020 1:28 pm

    Happy Birthday Miss Doris!!!!

  12. Gwen@ Monroe - April 5, 2020 2:17 pm

    Yeah. This is tough but it will eventually pass. And I think we’ll all be a little different. Kinder I hope. Maybe more conservative. I don’t know but I think we’ll be different. For the better is my prayer.

  13. Sylvia from Florida - April 5, 2020 2:39 pm

    What a wonderful birthday gift Miss Doris! Family is everything❤️ Thank you Sean.

  14. Jan - April 5, 2020 3:34 pm

    Beautiful! Brought me to tears … of course it doesn’t take much to bring me to tears these days! Thank you, Sean! Happy Birthday, Miss Doris!!!

  15. Linda Moon - April 5, 2020 3:35 pm

    Girlfriend parties are fun at any age. I’m looking at a picture of one right now…..five friends and a fuzzy red Boa, but no “Cosmo”. Caroling and Cats – whether Harry or Tonto – are probably just about enough to make a lot of us smile and share love in this time of corona. Happy Birthday, and I love you, Miss Doris!!

  16. Susan Anderson - April 5, 2020 3:36 pm

    Very sweet story!!!

  17. Edna Barron - April 5, 2020 3:51 pm

    What a wonderful birthday gift. Doris will remember it always. You stay safe and have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  18. Tom - April 5, 2020 4:03 pm

    Happy Birthday Miss Doris, I am Southern. This one got me in the old pump. It’s not my birthday but I can’t be with my grandkids either- I can relate.

  19. Judy - April 5, 2020 4:18 pm

    Yesterday a gentleman in Starkville, MS turned 83. 40 cars got together and drove past his house . Each car had a theme,balloons, birthday music even Big Bird n a giant sock monkey in one car..People are inventive and have spirit,some may be in them.Happy Birthday to all.

  20. Chasity Davis Ritter - April 5, 2020 8:50 pm

    Stories like this will get us through. I made out Easter cards to mail my Grandkids because we can’t be there this year. I think I’m going to draw little face-masks on my Easter eggs and post them to social media have to find ways to smile. Happy Birthday Doris. I’m glad you got your smile too!!

  21. Jan Fincher - April 5, 2020 9:30 pm

    Happy birthday, Miss Doris! I saw my grandson through a glass door yesterday and got overwhelmed, too. This year I’m going to be the Easter bunny for him and leave a basket on his front porch. My habit of buying ahead came in handy this year. Y’all stay safe!

  22. Dru Brown - April 6, 2020 1:51 am

    This was precious, Sean.

  23. Nancy Morse - April 6, 2020 3:54 am

    Happy Birthday, Miss Doris! I’m sure she’ll never forget her outdoor socially distant concert!

    Nancy M

  24. Christi Stage - April 6, 2020 1:27 pm

    A time I wish we could bring back. He was the best of the best. Love you Donna💕

  25. Aunt Si or Martha Black - May 17, 2020 2:05 am

    I love this. I turned 66 this year in March & the highlight of the year so far was getting to finally qualify for my full retirement benefit. Tonight Im sitting in my room missing my husband & tinking if him. He’s been gone 15 years & its been hard, cold & lonesome. My children tell me i loved him too hard & need to let go & I try but we were very happy together & i miss those sweet early dsys.
    I had just finished a wonderful supper my daughter prepared, (pan seared chicken breast topped with mushrooms & green beans with potafoes on them, sliced tomatotos, cucumber & sprung onions…….. Lemon crean pie for dessert!
    I was looking for something to watch on TV that I wouldnt go to sleep in the middle of, when I ran across an Eagles farewell concert I from Australia. Oh boy, oh boy. Just what I needed! This is the music my husband & I met, flirted, courted & danced like fools too. Oh what great music & what great times & memories. I didnt doze off once. The final song they performed during their final encore performance of the night was “Desperado”. As they sang the last line, “You better let somebody love you, before it’s too late……”
    Im so glad I took that advice all those years ago…….. and I have no regrets about it…….”

  26. Marge - May 17, 2020 3:53 pm

    Dear Sean, Minneapolis! How wonderful it is to see my home city in big letters on your posting! I, too, had a birthday, alone this year – another ‘milestone’ as I turned 80! It was raining, sleeting and snowing on my birthday up here in the cold of MN (April 3rd was dreary this year). I woke up wondering how I was going to get through another day of isolation and missing my husband of 56 years. Surprise, no tuba’s or marching band (socially distanced, of course) but bunches of beautiful tulips, a birthday cake, mimosa’s to share while standing in my garage…and most of all, smiling faces of those I love making sure my day was SPECIAL. I still wait to be told it is OK for me to rejoin the human race, all the while knowing the hugs I wait for will feel so very good!

  27. Mary Hicks - May 18, 2020 7:19 pm

    Happy birthday Ms. Doris!! Such a heartwarming post. I pray this all passes soon. I want some long awaited hugs! Thanks again Sean. God bless you and Jamie, from this old lady fan in Montevallo, AL.


Leave a Comment