Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Surprise Birthday Mayhem!

Let me tell you: I love birthdays! I think it’s because I don’t look at birthdays as turning a year older; I think of them as confirming our own unique personalities and worth. They are days when anything exciting can unfold, and I expect it to. My attitude towards birthdays carries over to my friends, and I always try to make them feel special..

So, when I got invited to my Facebook friend’s surprise 50th birthday party, I couldn’t turn the invitation down, even though I hadn’t seen my friend in thirty years! I looked at it as an adventure—and that’s exactly what it turned out to be. I anticipated a challenge because this undertaking would first, take place at night, and second, in an unfamiliar venue. How would I handle it when my classmate saw I was now using a blind man's cane?

My best friend, Kathy, stamped her feet to get warm,“Got the card and crying towel?” The crying towel was a gag gift for Birthday Boy.


"Got your cane?"


“Ready to rip?”

“R.I.P? You mean I’m takin’ my life in my hands?” I quipped. Then a moment of suspicious--and somewhat nervous--laughter hit me, "Did you say 'trip?' "

“Come on, I'm doing you a favor by going with you, and I'm freezin' while you're making jokes."

Brrrr! It felt like the coldest day of winter. When we spoke, our breath came out in tiny puffs. The wind sliced through my fashionable blue jeans where my jacket stopped. I wasn't wearing my warm cap as "limp flat hair" was not simply not acceptable at such a gathering. My fingers became stiff in the short walk from the parking lot to the building.

We ducked into the restaurant. I stood still for a few moments to let my eyes adjust to the dimly-lit interior. Kathy waited patiently for me to give the go-ahead to move forward.

"How about that table over there?" I tried to follow her chin movement. Over there? To the right? To the left? Across the room? My eyes were still adjusting.

"Oh yeah...the table is right ahead of you. Can you see it?"

"Ummm. Now I can. Okay, let's go."

I swept my cane back and forth. That made me feel like a street cleaner, except instead of cleaning I was spreading snow in wobbly arcs across carpet those first few steps. We reached the table--to the right of the door and a little behind us--and shed our coats.Some other women joined us.

“Let’s get something to drink.” Kathy suggested.

We ordered our beverages and headed back to our table. Where was Birthday Boy? I set my Coke down. When I set it down, I knocked over Kathy's cup. Ah, I didn't see it there! I watched the contents cover the table in record speed. I could definitely see that! People dashed madly about to bring napkins and paper towels. I just stood there watching. "Sorry. Sorry." I apologized as the woman tried to staunch the mess before it dripped onto their clothes. I caught Kathy's eye. She looked amused. I grimaced. What a way to start!

At that moment, Birthday Boy arrived at our table. Oblivious, he gave each of us a big, warm pull-me-close hug, which stretched out into a second one...

“Guess what Amy did? She spilled my drink all over the table. I didn't even get my first sip!"

She was up to something, but what? I glared daggers at her, but this time the darkness was in her favor. Drats! What would Birthday Boy think? She was not cued into any of my "Watch-it-you're-on-dangerous-ground" signals.

Birthday Boy still wore dark glasses but they didn't look as heavy as I remembered. He had a little less hair on top... and a little bit more on his face (a salt and pepper mustache and beard). He seemed inclined to forgive any clumsy misdeed, “You did that?” He smiled benignly and I noticed a tooth missing on the top right-hand side of his mouth. "You're lookin' good, the both of yous," he gestured to Kathy as well.

Ahhh…it's very dark in here,” I muttered to explain both the spill and his compliment, thinking how I would skewer my friend the moment he left.

"It's been a long time since I saw ya last." He looked relaxed as he tugged on the flap of his baseball cap.

"Yeah like thirty years," I reminded him. I hadn't seen him since high school.

"Want ya to meet my wife and doctor-I mean, daughter..." He called out to them, swaying a little, "C'mere..."

I smiled in Birthday Boy's direction where I expected them to show up. I held out my arm and thought they'd take it if they were there. No one did. So I quickly pulled it back.

"Oh daddy, whaddya want?" The blurry figure of an attractive blond, but slightly heavy-set young girl came into my view. He put his arm around her shoulder; his pride was unmistakable. "This is my daughter, Kelsie."

I nodded at her.

"Are ya havin' a good time?"

I wasn't sure if she meant Kathy and I or her dad, Birthday Boy.

He smiled at all of us,"What's more importan' than bein' with family and friends at my big 5-0?"

An older, heavier but less made-up version of the teen girl stepped into my view. Long blond hair and a friendly, wide smile caught my attention. She offered her hand, "So nice to meet you. I've seen your comments on Facebook. My daughter here actually sent out the invitations for the surprise party." She looked approvingly at Kelsie.

"So nice to meet you, Kathy." I didn't risk offering my hand. It was a casual outing, after all.

When they all left, I turned to my friend, "Okay, spill it!" I grinned at my pun, "Why did you tell him I spilled the drink?”

“I thought he might offer to buy me another one.” She made a face.

I rolled my eyes. What could I say? "It didn't work now, did it?"

"Nope," She laughed. "Be right back. I'm gonna get a Coke now. But don't go near it!" she joked.

"Don't worry. I don't think I could stand a repeat performance."


The rest of the night passed by without incident-- if you don't include me knocking two pieces of cake out of Kathy's hand before leaving or drawing the attention of another former classmate with my cane. I'll just have to get used to these "happenstances." Is that the right word? It was noteworthy that I managed to go through the buffet line without dumping any chicken wings ... wasn't sure how I could carry a plateful of food and manage my cane at the same time! But slow and steady makes the grade...

Birthday Boy reveled in the attention of family, close friends and old acquaintances. He was kind, generous and very welcoming. I was so glad that I came to be part of this celebration! I think sometimes as in the case of old - let me change that to "former" classmates meeting up -- where there is no bond due to a lifetime of different experiences, the "lifetime ago" becomes that bond. It's kind of a neat feeling.

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