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november 7

A few years ago, Angie and I decided to surprise Mom by flying from San Francisco to Detroit for a weekend on her birthday. It would be a tough trip of only about two days, but we hadn't been home in a while and we wanted to see everyone and I wanted to show Angie Michigan. Of course, Dad was in on the planning. I'd call home and he'd enjoy whispering over the line and making secret plans (especially if Mom was in the room)...

We flew on the red-eye after work on Friday and Dad came and picked us up at the airport on Saturday morning about 5am local time. He brought us straight to a breakfast place where Craig had Mom waiting. Dad was so excited to see us, so happy that we would want to be home with family, and that we were making Mom happy. I could hardly imagine him being happier if we'd surprised him for his birthday; he was so unselfish.

It was a big success, although Mom said she'd had hints that something was up. Guess Dad wasn't too good with the secret, and Mom couldn't help but be suspicious getting up for breakfast more than three hours before work. Well, we even made it out to the Franklin Cider Mill for their famous fried cakes and hot cider. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful weekend, and we had a great, but too short trip.

So Angie and I promised ourselves that we'd surprise Dad one year. He was usually getting the short end of the stick: all the kids would love to sit next to Mom, would give special gifts for Mom, would make more of Mother's Day than Father's Day. So we thought it'd be an even bigger surprise.

Then we moved to Shanghai and had to put it off, as we have so many other things.

...And then we lost him.

Growing up with 10 people in the house (Mom, Dad, 6 kids, Dad's parents), birthdays were a big deal. They were the one day of the year when you could count on getting more attention. Sure Mom and Dad always made you feel special, but on your birthday, you were even a little bit more special. This was true for Mom and Dad and our grandparents too. On your birthday, you'd get cards and gifts and birthday phone calls and a cake and us all singing, but you'd also get to pick what was for dinner. On each of our birthdays in turn, Mom would make prime rib or lasagna or some other favorite meal. Or for the younger kids, maybe it was a trip to Chuck E. Cheese or some other ridiculous place that kids found fun that year. On Dad's birthday, he'd always ask what everyone else wanted, he was so unselfish, so giving.

Well, Dad would've been 66 today. And Angie and I would've called as we always did. And all the kids would be racing to see who would call first (or more importantly, who didn't call last). Dad's birthday was usually a bit trickier without him calling all of us to gently remind us what day it was and who we needed to call as he would on other people's birthdays.

But there'll be no forgetting today. And in my heart, Angie and I are surprising him, secretly flying to be with him today. And for dinner, it'll be his choice, his favorite, or that new place he's been meaning to check out. And we'll all be around the table laughing, sharing news, catching everyone up on all the things going on, and just enjoying our family. And we'll all sing "Happy Birthday" and give him big hugs and kisses. And despite his blood sugar, he'll even have a slice. Maybe even two. I won't tell.

... Happy Birthday, Dad.

November 7, 2005 at 09:02 AM in Personal | Permalink

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