I pride myself on being the life of the party. After all, people occasionally pay me to be funny. But the pandemic has us all skipping a whole lot of opportunities to huddle up and have a good time. At least it should. Here in Texas we have reached over 9,000 cases a day, with around 115 daily fatalities. CDC Director Robert Redfield predicts we'll have more deaths daily in the United States than we did on 9/11 or Pearl Harbor for the next 60 days.

My 46th birthday just happened in the middle of all this chaos.   During the apocalypse, almost any celebration can yield some guilty feelings. But there were several good things that happened to me in this bizarre year, including this writing gig. Go figure all my training and experience in covering death and carnage would be beneficial. And that was just the school board meetings, everybody! We managed to move into a brand new house during the year. Of course, the bad part about that is everybody suddenly wanting to pay you a visit. Relatives we haven't seen since the Clinton Administration now want to throw housewarming parties. One particularly egregious offender reminded me I hadn't spoken to them since the last funeral we attended. Oh, I'm aware I haven't and that was supposed to be a subtle hint.

I absolutely wanted to celebrate the good things that happened for my family in 2020. But I was telling anyone who would listen we were keeping things small and intimate. Family don't wanna hear that noise, so I woke the Saturday before my birthday to news of a surprise party.  Let me explain. Surprise parties are never a surprise in my family. They never miss any opportunity for a celebration, despite my pleas to the contrary. Seriously, try to stop Southern Black folks from cooking huge meals and gathering, I dare you.

My lovely wife Tish promised me that it would be a small affair, because she knew my concerns about COVID-19. She shares them, but she also has difficulty telling family and friends no. Here's where the real "surprises" started happening. The small number of people invited kept growing to a point where I was no longer comfortable. The CDC was recommending gatherings should be no bigger than 10, and five people live in our home already. As an added bonus, one of the self-invitees is a COVID-19 denier. You know, one of those wonderful "it's no worse than a bad cold for most people" types. I tried to put on my usual happy front, but it wasn't working for me or anyone else. I'm a decent actor, but wondering which one of these folks might have a potentially deadly disease was severely harshing my birthday mellow.

At that point, I decided the only reliable solution was to become the social distancing I wish to see in the world. So I stood up, excused myself from my own birthday party and took a nap. Nobody was particularly happy with me, including my wife. I'm told a couple of folks took their gifts home with them. As I've mentioned, I don't like being the corona killjoy for my family. But the facts are the facts, and they don't care that it's your birthday. I'm in a few high-risk categories. I have high blood pressure, I'm overweight and I'm Black. I'm working on the first two categories, and I have always been perfectly happy with the third.

We all want things to return a semblance of normalcy as quickly as possible. I want to play in-person paper Magic and cover people doing all the in-person Magic things yesterday. While I've got all the training to cover Magic and society's more chaotic events, I'd really love to be talking about paper tournaments, new deck lists and me learning the ropes in Commander.

But the vaccines currently being deployed are just one step. We still have to wear masks, social distance and take all the necessary steps to remain safe.  That means staying apart for the holidays. Yes, it sucks. But dying or being responsible for someone else's death sucks way worse. Even people that survive COVID-19 often experience long-term effects on their health.

I didn't tell you any of this so you can be amazed at my sacrifice. I'm telling you because I don't want to be in the minority taking these drastic steps.  If only the opinion columnists and health care workers follow the recommendations, we will still be in a world of hurt. I'm letting you know that I understand just how hard it is to speak to family and friends about this. But we have to, for at least a little while longer. When the time is right, I'll be front and center playing Magic in person and I can't wait to have a couple of games with you.