many years ago, well seventeen to be exact, i had planned a party for celebration on this very day. there were pots of spaghetti sauce being made, a cake with a with a humorous them being put together across town, bottles of soda chilling and the expectation of surprise hung in the air like a thick cloud of steam being release from a pot of boiling pasta. as far as i was concerned i was ready for the big reveal. but, the real surprise wouldn’t be for the birthday guy. nope… it would be for all his guests.
this was my dad’s fiftieth birthday… and it was a surprise party. friends from Oregon and Reno were coming into town for the party. even my mom (at this point my parents had been divorced for about two years) took the day of work and did a massive house cleaning. (ok, so maybe there was a bit of motivation from knowing her former mother-in-law would be in the house and wanted to give her best impression… but i digress.) all in all, it was shaping up to one great little party.
but in the weeks before, the birthday boy himself made one little decision that not only sent me into tears, but also was set to derail my months of planning and scheming in order to get everything into place. he revealed to me that he decided to move to southern California for his new job a week early. Meaning he was high-tailing it out of town the week before his surprise birthday party! the moment i heard those words, i dissolved into a teary mush of goo and he went from being Dad to Daddy.
through my sobs he heard about all the well made plans of Grandma making the largest post of spaghetti sauce she had ever made (Grandma exaggerated at times), how is best friend from Reno and family were heading down the hill for this special celebration (they hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years), and how our close family friends from Oregon were coming down to surprise him too and they were bringing the cake! He was impressed at the magnitude of planning i took on in order to see this happen, and not wanting to derail the plans, decided to stick with his original scheduled move date of the following weekend. But, instead of me calling everyone and informing them that the gig was up and he foiled the plans, he threw a bit of a twist in it all. instead of him being surprised, why doesn’t he show up first and surprise everyone else. (now do see where i got my devious, but always used for good ways?!?)
and that’s just what he did. he arrived early and we had the best time watching everyone through the kitchen window arrive. some who parked down the street and attempted to sneak up to the house and not be noticed, or others who parked across the street. no matter where they parked, when the door was opened for them to come in, they were greeted by the birthday guy himself. that started the night off right, with laughter being shared by all.
i have great memories of that night. it seemed as though all the hurt that had been passed from person to person in the previous three years with the divorce and all the drama that came with that, was set aside for that one night to celebrate someone who was significant in all our lives. these are the memories that cling to. the ones filled with laughter and celebration. the ones that we experience friendship and love in some of it’s purest forms. if just for one night, that’s what happened at this little surprise party for my dad.
it’s been almost fifteen years since my dad went to be with Jesus, and today would have been his sixty-seventh birthday. there wouldn’t have been a party, but there would have been a great dinner with a great cake to follow.