Saturday, January 14, 2012


When my father turned 60 he was surprised by a belly dancer.  Last week (January 5th to be exact) when Dean turned 60, I gave him a flashlight.  I think, by his reaction, he was surprised too.  That’s not to say it wasn’t a very nice flashlight.  It shines 150 feet into the darkness and “produces a brilliant combination hot spot and peripheral beam” but still … it was just a flashlight.  It didn’t have quite the same dramatic effect as a belly dancer with light flashing off the undulating discs attached to her costume.  What he didn’t realize at the time, however, (because he can be somewhat oblivious) was that I’d been scurrying around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off trying to plan a surprise 60th birthday party for him.  

In times like that, being “blessed” with an oblivious husband can be a good thing.  The few days before his party went like this:

TUESDAY AFTERNOON – after a four hour drive from the airport

Crazed Birthday Planner:  “I’m not going to work this afternoon.  I’m going to use my vacation time to stay home and clean the house (for seven hours even though I’ve just spent four hours driving home from Denver after saying goodbye to Abby & Jorge) because it’ll distract me from feeling sad (but really it’s because my house is a total garbage dump from two weeks of non-stop fun and I have people coming for your birthday party in four days.)

 Decidedly Oblivious Birthday Boy:  “Okay.”


Crazed Birthday Planner:  “I bought new rug pads for the kitchen rugs today so they won’t slide anymore (which I’ve been talking about buying for three months but finally did today because I’m planning your surprise birthday party and I need to keep the environment safe for brittle bones and slower reflexes.) 

Decidedly Oblivious Birthday Boy:  “Okay.”

Crazed Birthday Planner:  “I also bought a new rug for the front door today because the backing on the old one was turning to dust and leaving more dirt than it was catching (and because I’m having people over for your birthday party and that rug is an embarrassment.”

Decidedly Oblivious Birthday Boy:  “Okay.”

Crazed Birthday Planner:  “Oh, and I replaced all the burned out light bulbs (which have been burned out for weeks or months because I have people coming over for your birthday who probably would prefer to see the rugs they will no longer be slipping on.”) 

Decidedly Oblivious Birthday Boy:  “Okay.”


Decidedly Oblivious Birthday Boy:  “I don’t want to be at work.  I’m leaving early.”

Crazed Birthday Planner:  “#!?#!!”


Crazed Birthday Planner:  “I bought too many rug pads so now that I’ve finished baking your birthday cake and making the sauce for the manicotti for tomorrow’s birthday dinner, before Bed, Bath & Beyond closes I’m going to return a couple of them (and then I’m going to rush to the party store to buy the plates and napkins that say ‘you’re 60’ and hide them in my trunk because you left work early today so I couldn’t do it after I left work because that would mean I would get home later than normal and you’d wonder where I’d been.”)

Decidedly Oblivious Birthday Boy:  “Right now?”  

Crazed Birthday Planner:  “Yes.” 

Decidedly Oblivious Birthday Boy:  “Okay.” 


Decidedly Oblivious Birthday Boy:  “I’m taking the afternoon off.  It’s my birthday.”

Crazed Birthday Planner:  “#!?#!!  Leslie, Dad took the afternoon off – again – so I need to take vacation time so I can buy the birthday beer but still get home at the same time I usually do so he’s not suspicious.  But I can’t sneak anything into the house because he’ll be there.  I’m worried if I leave beer in the trunk it’ll freeze.  Can I bring it to your house?”

THURSDAY EVENING – Birthday Party With Family

Lucky Daughter: “Dad, my birthday present for you is a father/daughter afternoon on Saturday.  I’ll pick you up around 3 p.m.” 

Decidedly Oblivious Birthday Boy:  “Okay.”

Crazed Birthday Planner:  “Dean, please accept that flashlight as a token of my esteem.”

Decidedly Oblivious Birthday Boy:  blank look


Crazed Birthday Planner:  “Dean, I’ll be out of the office for a couple of hours taking the cats to the vet to get their shots (but not really.  I'm just afraid you’ll decide to leave early again today so I’m using vacation time to buy the veggies and last minute party stuff and take it home and put it in a cooler with ice and hide it in my sewing room closet.”

Decidedly Oblivious Birthday Boy: “Okay.”


Crazed Birthday Planner:  “I need to have Abby tell me how she makes the stuff she cleans her stainless steel stove with.  If I ever buy another stainless steel refrigerator I’m going to make sure it’s not the kind that shows every fingerprint (and why don’t you think it’s weird that I’m rubbing away furiously at this fridge and the stove at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday while you’re making pancakes? Or that I’ve been following behind you all week picking up every bit of food you drop on the floor when you’re cooking and/or eating?  And why haven’t you noticed that I put the Christmas decoration bins back above the garage even though there are still some decorations up in the house?  Or that I actually cleaned the guest bedroom and bathroom which I almost never do unless I know guests are coming (which I know are but YOU don’t)?  Or that it’s Saturday and I’ve put on makeup and straightened my hair which NEVER happens on the weekend?”)


3:07 p.m.
Lucky daughter takes Dean for the father/daughter afternoon and then the whirl of preparation begins.   Our good friends from Denver, Larry & Heidi are waiting in the wings. 

Larry drives off to the grocery store to pick up the pounds of meat and cheese, the mountain of croissants and the cake I’d ordered earlier in the week.   He brings it back and then drives to Leslie and Ryan’s to pick up the beer. While he is doing that,  Heidi and I are frantically cutting and laying out vegetables, meats, chips, and condiments, while I babble like a crazed birthday planner who is trying to prepare a surprise birthday party for her husband in three hours. 
What about the cucumbers?  Round slices or spears?  I don’t know…I don’t know…what do you think?  Spears?  Round?  Will they want them on their sandwich?  The round would be better on a sandwich, right?  But round wouldn’t be very easy for dipping.  If they want to dip they’ll want spears.  Round?  Spear?   And what about the meat?  Rolled or fanned out?  Oh…Heidi, your veggies are laid out in very nice rows and they’re all neat and precise.  My peppers are just a pile of red and green and orange.  Maybe I should straighten them out.  Should I straighten them out?  Cheese.  What about the cheese?  Rectangular platter or round plate?  Rolled or flat?  Not rolled, right?  Flat is better.  Condiments?  Where are my condiments?  I know I had squirt mayo and squirt miracle whip and mustard and olives and pickles.  I can’t find them.  They’re not with the other stuff.  Crap.  Did I leave that bag in the trunk?  Shoot.  If I did it’s probably frozen.  Do you think Larry’s still at the store?  It’s not in the trunk.  I’ve looked in my sewing room closet and the cabinet twice.  I can’t find them……..oh, wait.  They’re at Leslie’s!  I remember.  I bought them the day I bought the beer and I left them at Leslie’s!  What time is it?  Oh, man.  I’m never going to be ready….

And I wouldn't have been if it wasn't for Larry & Heidi's help.  If it wasn't for them all the party guests would have been grabbing deli meat and cheese from bags and cutting their own veggies.


6:00 p.m.

Guests arrive. 
6:13 p.m. 
Text from Lucky Daughter:  “how much longer?” (because Dad is being a real pain.  He wouldn’t let me take him to the art museum because he ‘has a membership and can go anytime’ and he didn’t want to go the art gallery or the art store or just about everything I tried to do with him.)

6:20 p.m. 
Abby and Jorge have “joined in” on Skype.  I’d been watching through the peep hole in the front door for the Decidedly Oblivious Birthday Boy’s arrival but then I got distracted and wasn’t watching when Lucky Daughter pulled up.  So when Decidedly Oblivious Birthday Boy walked in nobody was ready.  And then he went the opposite way I was expecting (even though I should have known better) so he walked in on a bunch of people milling around visiting and drinking. 

But he was still surprised.  So surprised that he stood in the doorway between the kitchen and dining room, mouth open, staring.  He was speechless almost as long as he was when he opened the flashlight.

And that was my real gift.  Even though I still think the flashlight was pretty cool.



Abby said...

Favorite part:

“Dean, please accept that flashlight as a token of my esteem.”


Second favorite part:'

Watching Dad walk in and stand there, stunned and speechless for the next two minutes.

Art Elser said...

Cathy, you are a scream. But didn't you feel like you were in a battle of wits with an unarmed man?

Neet picture of Al and Lesley. Is Al doing his best, "I'm now a manager. Would anyone like to kiss my ring" routine? Have you discovered the peace that descended on your cubicle when Al moved?

Art Elser said...

I looked back this morning at your latest blog and had to know what in heck 7.74596669 is, so I copied it and pasted it into Google--ah ha!!!! The square root of 60.

School was so much simpler when I went there. Square roots hadn't yet been invented and there were only four elements on the periodic table, earth, fire, water, and air.

Cathy, you've been hanging around with them rock lickers too long.

Susan said...

You have a great way of telling the story. I was quite entertained!