Happy Birthday Dad!


I woke up at 3:30 this morning and started thinking about my dad.   The more I thought, the less sleepy I became.  I consider Dad to be one of the greatest influences on my life, and thankfully, I inherited some of his qualities like being a sincere, compassionate and generous person.  He help mold me into the person I am today, I and hope he is as proud of me as I am of him.  He passed away this past March, and I miss him very much.  If he were still alive today, I would be celebrating his birthday with him.   Now, I could be sad and mope around all day, but I feel that even though he is not here in person, he is still with me, so I would like to celebrate his life by telling you a story about his first and last surprise birthday party.

It was mid August, and Dad would be turning sixty on the 31st of the month.  Everybody knows how hard it is to find the perfect gift for your parents, and my sister and I were trying to decide what we could do to make his birthday special.  We thought and thought and when it came to buying him a gift, we drew a blank . Day after day, we talked about it and we just kept drawing a blank.  His birthday was quickly approaching, so we had to think of something to get him or do for him.  I started thinking about what he would like, and then it dawned on me.  He loves people; he loves to dance; he loves food and he loves to talk, so I decided we needed to have a party for him.  Not just any party, a surprise party.

I telephoned my sister and went over my idea with her and she got very excited about the surprise party.  Since she lived a few houses down from Dad, she offered to have the party at her house.  For the next three days we were busy inviting friends, buying decorations, and shopping for food and drinks.    On the morning of the 31st, I arrived at my sister’s house around nine o’clock.  We got all the decorations in place and quickly started preparing appetizers and finger foods.  I iced down sodas and beer, and then parked my car behind my sister’s house so Dad wouldn’t see it.

Everything was going as planned; that is everything but the most important thing.  My dad was a truck-driver and he had been on a trip all week-long, and it was Saturday and he still wasn’t home.  The party was to start at three o’clock and it was already noon, and Dad was nowhere to be found.  My sister and I were beginning to get concerned that something had happened to him, so we drove to the place he worked to see if his tractor-trailer was there.  It wasn’t.  We went back to my sister’s house and stared out the window just watching and waiting for him to drive by.  The longer we waited, the more worried we became.

It was almost two o’clock, and just when we had decided to call our friends and cancel the party, we heard someone drive up.  My sister looked out the back door, and saw it was Dad.  We didn’t want Dad to see the decorations and food, so we both ran outside and met him in the driveway.  After giving him a big hug, I noticed how tired he looked, so I suggested that he go home and clean up and come back to my sisters in an hour.  We would fix him a good meal and then he could go back home and rest.  He admitted that he was very tired, so he agreed to go home and clean up, then return later for a good home cooked meal.

At two-thirty  the guest started arriving and I had everyone park around the back of the house so the cars wouldn’t be seen.  When the last guest arrived at three o’clock, it was time for my sister to call Dad and tell him to come eat.  I listened while she talked to him on the phone and I heard her saying, “Dad, we are ready to eat now, so come on.”  Then she paused for a few seconds and she said, “But Daddy!.  You have to come eat.  CJ and I worked really hard on this meal.  No, we are not bringing you a plate.  Come on.”  When she hung up I said, “Ah oh.  What’s going on?”.  My sister proceeded to tell me that Dad was asleep and he was too tried to go anywhere and he wanted us to fix him a plate and bring it to him later.

Now, here we are with twenty guest in our house to celebrate a birthday, and the guest of honor didn’t want to be present.  My sister called him three more times, and each time he refused to leave his house. We all sat around and thought for a few minutes, and suddenly I had an idea that I was 100 percent sure would make him get here, and get him here fast.   I looked at my sister, winked and said, “Watch this!”  I picked up the phone and dialed Dad’s number.  Dad answered the phone, and in the most panicky voice I could muster, I said, “Daddy!  You have got to get up here now!  The toilet is overflowing and we can’t get it to stop and water is going all over the floor.”  I hung up the phone and screamed, “Hide!”.

In an instant, people were running around in all directions trying to find a place to hide.  All the guest were hidden within thirty seconds and just when my sister and I jumped into the bathtub and closed the shower curtain  to hide, we heard the back door swing open followed by footsteps running down the hall. When Dad made it to the bathroom, my sister and I flung open the shower curtain and shouted, “Surprise!” and everyone else started running towards the bathroom shouting, “Happy Birthday!”.  Dad jumped about two inches off the floor and grabbed his chest and his eyes rolled back in his head and I just knew he was having a heart attack.  My sister and I ran over to him to make sure he was okay and he just stood there shaking for a couple of minutes and when he realized what was going on, he was mad as hell.

We had scared him so bad, he had to sit down for damn near thirty minutes to calm down.  Then, finally when Dad had gotten over his shock, he started enjoying himself.  Everyone had a blast and the party was a big hit.  It was almost mid-night before everyone left, including Dad.  The next day we were talking to Dad about it and my sister commented that she was scared he was having a heart attack, and I said something about him jumping two inches off the floor and his eyes rolling back in his head.  Dad said he should have know something was going on when he went into the bathroom and there was no water on the floor.  Then when we jumped out screaming, he started to back up and when he heard screaming behind him, he didn’t know which way to go.  We all laughed and laughed about it and Dad said it was one of his best birthday presents ever.  But, he made us promise to never, ever do that again, and we never did.

So, my dear Dad,  I just want you to know that I am thinking about you.  It has been hard without you, but your memory will keep me company and I will try not to mourn your death, but instead, celebrate your life. Right after you left, I wrote a poem.  You always liked my poems, so I think this will be a good birthday present for you this year.

The emails and phone calls, I appreciate those,
Another sympathy card to join the lonely rose.
Grief locked inside so it does not show,
How to say goodbye, must I let go?

A hero, an idol the best friend I have ever known,
Has quietly passed by and is forever gone.
The rain outside falls as hard as the tears inside,
All the love and respect, I cannot hide.

Another sleepless night, another gloomy day
Tomorrow will be better, I hear them say.
Just grateful for all the time that we had,
No one will ever fill your shoes, my dear Dad.

Happy Birthday…..I love you!  CJ

My dad, W.L.,  Born August 31, 1926,Died March 11, 2010

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