Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Surprise! You're 70.

Do you remember when you were back in grade school and the first assignment of the new school year was a composition about your summer vacation?

Well I just got back from mine, and I know it's not summer, but is was my vacation. One I needed for a very long time.

I chose to return to my hometown, a place I have not been for nearly a decade. I have family still there, as well as many friends. But what made the choice an obvious one was that my father, whom I have not seen for over 9 years, was turning 70, and the occasion of his birthday would present a great opportunity for me to surprise him.

My brother, who lives and works in New Jersey, and my sister, still living just outside my hometown would help spring the surprise.

As the date of my arrival approached, there was concern that my father would catch wind of my coming. A phone call to him just a day before I boarded an east bound plane, confirmed to me that he was completely unaware of my plans.

I would be spending some time in Toronto, before travelling on the last leg of the journey back to New Brunswick. The time there provided me with some much needed rest and relaxation before heading into the "family circus" that all home comings seem to evolve into.

Flying into Saint John on that autumn Wednesday evening, clear skies, and spectacular fall colors greeted me as we made our approach into the small town airport. I recognized many of the land marks. The lakes, the hill tops, the skyline all familiar, all inviting. My sister met me as I got off the plane, with a welcoming hug that still lingers to this day.
"You are going to have to hide for two days until Dad's surprise party." she said to me.
"Hide in this town? This town is too small, someone is bound to recognize me." I replied.
And with that we were off to drop off my bags at her place.

My nephew joined us at the house and we decided to go get a bite to eat. Vito's Pizza Restaurant, a local favorite and makers of the best Cesar salad anywhere, was where we headed.

I was not in the place for two minutes, when a familiar face said hello. A former hockey coach and friend of our family, Dr. Lou Simon. After the hello's and handshakes, I look to my sister and say: "see I can't hide here, we need to come up with a plan to surprise Dad before his big day."

Oh yes, by the way the Pizza and Cesar were fantastic!

The revised plan now would happen on the following evening. Brother Dan, who my father knew was coming for a visit, would meet Dad for dinner. My sister Carrie would join them a short time later. Dan and Carrie would make sure Dad's back was to the door and that's when I would walk in and sit down beside him.

Geeze, I hope that his heart is in good shape, surprising a 70 year old might not be the smartest thing for the preservation of life.
The plan was set. Dad was in place. I made my entry into the restaurant. I tapped him on the shoulder, and said "Happy Birthday Dad."

The Surprise as seen through the lens of my sister Carrie's Camera

Happy Birthday Dad! Surprise!

The shock didn't kill him, thank God, but the look I shall always remember. He wiped a tear as did I. It was the first time in 12 years that he had all of his children together. It was a moment I shall treasure forever.

Dad and Me

The next couple of days would include rounds of Golf, the "Official" surprise party, this time with all of Dad's brothers and sister, neighbours and friends and a Thanksgiving dinner at my father's. Plenty of rare quality time, without the separation of geography.

Murman, Dad, Carrie and Dan all together for the first time in 12 years


Horonto said...

Your a good son for hauling it from one coast to the other.

Maybe you should keep it less than 9 years until your next visit with you dad or spring for a ticket for him to travel to the west coast. If his health allows it.

Happ B'day Murman's Dad all the best. You raised a good one!

Paula said...

Hey Mur! Sorry I missed you when you were home, I was in New Hampshire! The pictures are awesome!! Titus genes are some strong eh? LOL Carrie must have been in her glory to have both her brothers home at the same time! Both of mine are in Ontario!! I miss them dearly! Take care of yourself & don't wait another 9 years before coming home again!! Love Paula