On Sunday, March 1, 2009, I celebrated my 60th birthday. Actually, let me rephrase that: I commemorated my 60th birthday. Although I’m thrilled to still be alive and in reasonably good health, I take no joy in having aged six decades.
My, oh my, where did all the years go? It seems like yesterday that family, friends and co-workers were presenting me with over-the-hill gag gifts and “Happy 50th Birthday” cards and balloons.
On Saturday, Feb. 28, the night before my 60th birthday, my wife Sherry and I attended the Scott County Cattlemen’s Association Banquet at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds. We enjoyed the fine meal, listened to an interesting guest speaker, Trent Loos, and sat most of the way through a fund-raising auction of items cattlemen use in their work.
I sort of wanted to hang around until the end to socialize with folks. But Sherry seemed uncharacteristically anxious to leave during the auction. So we did.
“I didn’t think you needed to stick around and bid on ear tags,” she said on our way home, jokingly trying to explain her reason for wanting to leave.
We’d left a front room light on at our house, but other than that, the place was dark. When we arrived home, I needed to use the bathroom. So I walked into the kitchen, turned on the light and headed down an adjacent hallway that leads to a half-bath and the dining room.
As I was nearing my destination, out of the corner of my eye I saw a figure appear in the darkness of the dining room. I froze and my heart, I’m sure, skipped a beat. Was this a burglar, a very bold burglar?
Before I could move, a voice said, “Wanna go out for a drink, old man?”
I immediately recognized the voice as that of our number-two son, Clint, as he stepped from the shadows into the light. He had pulled off a big birthday surprise.
With only my wife’s and his friend Joe Golinghorst’s knowledge, Clint had flown to the Quad-Cities from his home in Minneapolis at 5 p.m.
Joe had picked him up at the airport and they visited until Sherry and I had left for the banquet. Then Joe delivered Clint to our house, where he entered through a door my wife had left unlocked for him. Then he waited in the darkness to surprise me.
I’ve often told family members I’m not fond of surprises. But that only holds true for bad surprises. Surprises like the time my teen driver son, who had been behind the wheel of one of my cars, called to say, “Dad, I had a little wreck today in the high school parking lot.”
Or the times my daughter, when she was in high school, tried out new recipes on the family at dinner — things like salmon loaf and peanut butter burgers — then got angry with my sons and I when we didn’t clean our plates.
And there was that bad surprise I received that morning in 1971 when I looked down the basement steps at our first house in Davenport following a night of heavy rain and saw possessions floating by in the more than a foot of water from a backed-up sewer. It’s surprises like that that I’m not fond of.
But this surprise — a visit from a son who lives out of town — while shocking, was certainly a pleasant one, and one I will never forget. Clint felt compelled to visit, he said, not only because I’d hit the big 6-0 but because we share the same birthday. He was born March 1, 1978.
On our actual birthdays, Sunday, March 1, daughter Andrea and her kids from Wilton joined Sherry, Clint and myself for dinner at a restaurant; then we had cake and ice cream at home.
Son Brendan and his boys, who live in the St. Louis area, called to shout “Happy Birthday!” in unison on the phone. And I got a happy birthday text message from son Dane and his wife Casey, who live in Minneapolis but were vacationing at the time in Hawaii.
All in all it was a great celebration — uh, I mean commemoration — of my 60 years on earth.
Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.