Karen Johnston desperately wanted to give her dad a hug on his 100th birthday, but she couldn’t.
For the past year, her family had been planning a special tea to celebrate Prince Albert’s Marcel Thompson hitting triple digits on Sunday.
Plans changed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Saskatchewan in March. Keeping an eye on the public health guidelines, they had to scale the party down to 30 people. With such a large family wanting to celebrate with Marcel, it was a difficult task.
“Dad grew up here, he’s lived here all his life,” said Karen, explaining that Marcel worked at the plumbing company Thorpe Brothers Ltd. for 35 years. Now, he’s one of the only original Thorpe brothers still alive.
“I mean, this is his whole community and we planned a huge tea, just come and go, and then all of the sudden with COVID you have to tear it down to 30 people. It was so hard.”
Marcel’s family was scattered in the parking lot of Mak Lodge, where he lives, on Sunday afternoon. Karen said the staff there told him he had birthday visitors and to put on nice clothes.
His outfit was later topped off with a new hat, gifted to him by one of his sons.
“It was kind of funny,” explained Karen. “We were out in the parking lot waiting for him to come out and he was waving at us from his room.”
Marcel isn’t much of a social person, she said. Being cooped up inside of the assisted living facility for the last couple of months, she said it was a little overwhelming at first for him to be surrounded by a group of people.
You could tell by the smile that quickly emerged on his face, though, that he was excited to see his loved ones.
Only five people could fit on the deck with Marcel to maintain proper physical distancing. Karen said her sister, her sister’s son and the son’s wife, along with their two kids, sat on the deck with him.
That way, the children could see his birthday sparklers going off up close.
“It’s pretty amazing, it really is,” said Karen about her now 100-year-old dad. “My mom’s still alive, too. She’ll be 98 and they’ll be celebrating 78 years (of marriage) in August.”
Six of Marcel’s children attended the birthday party, along with his 90-year-old sister.
Karen said it’s been difficult to barely get to see her dad over the past few months. They used to go for breakfast almost every Saturday morning.
The birthday celebration may not have been what they originally planned, but she said it was still memorable.
Hopefully, if COVID-19 settles down, she’ll be able to join her dad to celebrate his 101st birthday next year. Maybe then, she’ll be able to give him that long-awaited hug.