Sunday, February 15, 2009


My mom just celebrated her 80th birthday in January. My dad, who hates anything to do with surprises, decided to throw her a surprise birthday bash. He enlisted as many friends and of course, family as he could to pull off this coup. The grandchildren and I, along with my brother, were enlisted to distract her for the day, while he ran around incognito preparing for the fete.

We took my mom out to lunch and tried to convince her to come out to the llama farm. But it was cold and foggy and my mom is not exactly the earthy type. When we came back later, she was fuming. My dad had not been home all day and she was fit to be tied. She was frustrated that on her birthday, she was not getting the attention she so truly deserved. He had told my brother to bring her downtown but she wanted him to come home and made no bones about it.

Surprisingly the grandkids, especially my precocious five year old granddaughter, kept mum about great-grandpa's secret plans. We tried calming her down but as we made our goodbyes and headed over to the party, her Latin roots were on fire.

The party went off without a hitch. My granddaughter played Happy Birthday for the crowd of 40 plus people as my mom entered the darkened room and we yelled surprise! She was upset with me for letting her come down there without her lipstick. But she was in heaven, surrounded by loved ones who congratulated her on the milestone and patted my dad on the back for pulling it off.

My mother is not one to be out done. So the story does not end there. Mom decides to "get even" though I have questioned the sentiment here, since my dad was really doing a nice thing. She enlisted a friend to hold a sweetheart luncheon for a few close friends. This was the plausible ruse to get my father out of the house and to his Valentine surprise or "revenge is a dish best served cold" party.

She was a bit disappointed because she couldn't find some of the old songs from their courtship days. I told her to give me the names and I would download them in itunes. She was at once shocked and delighted. Because, Always, I'm in the Mood For Love were a few of the favored selections, which I found quickly and decided that Perry Como and old Blue Eyes were probably the best crooners. I also found a great Nat King Cole tune, The Very Thought Of You. But the selection would not be complete, I told her, without the Marine Corps Hymn.

My father a retired Marine, plays the song every time he walks by a piano. He has insisted that all his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren learn the piece as standard repertoire (a fancy word for music). It seemed appropriate to close this timeless musical love affair with a stand at attention semper fi.

My dad was duly surprised and he, too, thought it best to blame me for his lack of awareness in the planning stages. The role of the oldest daughter, I suppose. But for all their protests, this is a testimony to true love. There are no fonder memories for me than my dad coming home from work and whirling my mom around the kitchen floor in an awkward attempt at the waltz. Trust me, if there is one thing my father and I have in common - we can't dance! But his endearing way of taking her into his arms and my mom gracefully making him look good doing so, are moments from my childhood that I truly treasure.

Valentines Day may be scoffed as a day for florists and chocolate makers to sell their wares, but for me it is a time to honor those who have stood the test of time, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, through kids, diapers, runny noses, fender benders, lost jobs, new jobs, moving, empty nests and aging bodies. That is what it means to be in love and young people got nothing on my Fred Astaire Dad and my Ginger Rogers Mom.


Cathy said...

True love is a wonderful few of us are lucky enough to have parents who taught us about it..and a few of us really lucky ones found it in our own lives!!! We were all truly blessed to be born into the Duncan family!!!

nancygrayce said...

Ditto! Happy Birthday Aunt Ada!