I've been thinking a lot about the summer of 2008 when we threw a surprise party for my parents' 60th birthdays. My dad and mom were born in March and November respectively, so we figured a party on Labor Day weekend would never be expected! (That, and, 800 miles of distance between us and them made this pretty much the only time available/possible.)
It was a fabulous party, if I might say so myself. We had pictures, good food, random trivia (one of my specialties), and in attendance we had many, many great friends and family members. It was nearly perfect. (I *barely* remember that the air conditioning was broken, and it was in the 80's up in the church gym.)
It took some convincing to get them to the party. We got them there under the promise of crabs in the church gym following a completely fabricated (and unorthodox) Saturday dedication service for the children of a family friend. As soon as we climbed the stairwell, my mom figured out something was up. My dad may have, but he's a good sport. They didn't walk in together. It was staggered. First, my dad.
With a look of pure confusion crosses his face as he notices Aunt Janet there...
Then it hit him and his reaction was to, like most times, simply smile. (Note, still no Joyce.)
Then came my mom, however begrudgingly. If you know her, you probably don't believe it, but she absolutely hates being the center of attention. I'm quite certain when she realized that this was all for her, the exact words that came out of her mouth were, "I hate you, Jennie." I *think* she's gotten over it by now.
Then our sugar addict, Abby, waited like a begging puppy dog for my parents to cut the cake (because I have to say at least one thing about my kids in every blog post, right?).
The turnout for the party was amazing, with almost 90% of invitees showing up. I think we had over 70 people there. I never dreamed that on a holiday weekend that many people would be able to attend, but I am so glad that they did. I like to think it's because my parents are just that special. If you know them, I would bet you'd agree. If you don't, you should. My dad is everything I desire for my son to end up to be. My mom is...well...there's no one on earth quite like her! And with every day that passes, I see myself becoming more and more like her. I console myself with the belief that I have enough of my dad in me to offset that. (wink, wink) Oh no, must control the urge to write the Ode to My Parents. I'll save that for a rainy day...
I've been thinking about this party a lot lately because another significant event is coming up in the life of my parents that is worth celebrating in a big way.
My dad is retiring on his 62nd birthday, mere days from now, on March 18th.
I can almost taste it along with him. For the past six months, before hanging up the phone, whenever we talk my dad has interjected an "Oh yeah, I only have ___ days of work left." As the weeks passed that number dwindled, faster and faster to now, in the single digits. He has worked like a dog, provided for his family, lived frugally and selflessly, and after 44 years of 9-5ing (with some swing shifts at the steel mill) if anyone ever deserved their retirement, he has earned his. I can almost imagine what it will be like for him to wake up on March 19th, no longer carrying the weight of the Perry Point VA Medical Center on his shoulders. I want to celebrate what is surely one of the most exciting days of his life with him. When and how remains to be seen, but celebrate we will.
I probably don't tell him enough, I probably don't tell both of my parents enough, just how blessed I am to be their daughter. And even though words are boring, I should. And maybe, just maybe, I'll throw another surprise party in from time to time just to keep things interesting.