Dad turned 75 last week and Saturday we had a birthday celebration for him -- an excuse to get together, to laugh, to eat, to talk and to sing. Truthfully, any excuse will do, a 75th birthday is a pretty good reason to have a little fun, I think.
We arrived at Dad's house early afternoon and joined in the "milling." There is something about the kitchen that seems to draw people. We stand, we sit, we stuff ourselves into confines so tight we'd complain about it were it forced on us, but, when food is being prepared and drinks are being poured and my brother Dan is telling a story in his animated delivery, we are all there -- crammed around the center kitchen island, laughing and carrying on.
After a while, I decided I wanted to explore the yard a bit. We were monopolizing the kitchen and nobody was out on the back deck. A little exploring later, and I was sitting comfortably in deck chair, chatting with a friend, and examining some plants I'd never seen before.
It wasn't long before half the birthday party-goers were out on the back deck, and our noise level rose again, as Ray, Jeannie, Dan and I competed with the tales of our childhood years. Before long, every one of the dozen of so chairs was occupied and people were standing, leaning against the deck rails, joining in the conversations, the silly stories, and stuffing their faces with good food.
The whole party crowd is a funny thing. It moves around from place to place, sometimes breaking into two or three groups and then melding back into a single group. Unlike the days of the not-too-distant past, there were no youngsters running around, presenting those memorable moments that only children can. No, Saturday's party makers were all over 18. As I watched some of our children, now adults, I wondered how long it will be before we have a new generation to add another dimension to the family portrait.
Besides family, there were friends. Some of Dad's friends, friends from work I believe, seemed so happy to see us "kids." While I honestly have no recollection of them, they certainly remembered US! It felt a little funny when one old lady told me the last time she'd seen me, I was a little girl and asked if I remembered the monkey. Remembered it? Of course! Of course, I couldn't be certain WHICH monkey she was referring to, Impy or Chico....but I didn't think that really mattered. I assured her I remembered our pet monkey VERY well.
We sang Happy Birthday, of course, and everyone took pictures. Pictures of Dad and Lynne, pictures of Dad and "the kids," pictures of "the cousins." From every picture though, there were some important people missing. "The cousins" was missing my son and Ray's son and daughter, who had not been able to make the trip for the party. "Dad and the kids" was missing Tim who'd managed to take a break from work and travel from Florida for Dad's actual birthday, but who had not been able to secure the time off to stay for the party, and, of course, it was missing Ted. All the pictures, for the past 22 years, have been missing Ted.
When everyone was so filled with food they could barely move, we broke out the instruments, and the voices.........that was around 9 PM. We played and sang until nearly 2 AM. We sang the songs that Dad taught us as children. We sang the songs of war protest that were in the popular culture when we were adolescents. And we sang some songs we'd "learned along the way" from friends, and life. And finally, though I truly did not want to leave, I had to wrap up my guitar and say my good-byes. I had 3 1/2 hours yet to drive home and needed to be at choir rehearsal at 9 AM Sunday morning.
So, as Ray sang his rendition of the Iz medley "Over the Rainbow, What a Wonderful World," as those who had not been able to stay up much beyond midnight slept, seemingly undisturbed, on the floor of the living room, as we made certain we had everything we'd arrived with, I thought what a true blessing it was that we were able to come together for Dad's birthday.
Sunday, after church, we lazed around and looked at photos and video taken the day before. We chided ourselves for using the batteries for the camcorder, rather than simply plugging it into the AC power...how stupid we were ... we missed some of the best songs. Our "Danny Boy" brought tears to the eyes of those who'd never sung with us before, but it will have to remain in our memories only, for the battery had expired. I guess that just means we'll have to get together and do it all again.
You would have liked it, Ted.