June 30

Old Home Week

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Sorry to have been away from the blogging desk, but as those of you who follow Mike’s blog will know, I’ve just completed a major covert operation: a large surprise birthday celebration for Mike back in our old stomping ground in Little Rock.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in cloak and dagger…well at least cloak, juggling secretive emails by the double dozen to all the different people who helped me set this whole thing up without his knowing anything. As I told all my willing co- conspirators: Mum was the word! In multiple decades of marriage, I’ve managed to surprise him exactly once. I was going for number 2 and though I had a few close calls, I made it!

I wanted to get all the kids and grandkids together in one place to wish him a happy (large number landmark birthday, specific number not to be disclosed) but because of school and work schedule conflicts, bringing them to California or Nevada wasn’t an option. The Dallas contingent couldn’t get there just for the weekend, nor could they stay longer at this particular time. We determined that Little Rock was close enough for just a weekend jaunt for them and so the place was set. Besides, we’ve got lots of friends and family there who would all want to wish him well on his big day.

To set the plan in motion, I told him there was going to be a reunion of my high school class in Hot Springs on June 23. We had our 35th reunion last summer (or tried to) but the showing was dismal, probably owing to trying to have it over the Fourth of July weekend.

A mistake they would not make again…

Only about 15 people posted out of a class of 413 last year. Most of our reunions have been very well attended, with several hundred or near that showing up for them, so it seemed reasonable, when the last one was such a bust, that we might try again this year, and thus it made a plausible ruse. At any rate, he bought the story, which was all that mattered in my plan.

As a part of our visit, Mike made big plans with my chief co-conspirator (our erstwhile next-door neighbor, Howard) to play golf on Saturday morning before we headed over to my reunion in Hot Springs (about an hour from Little Rock.)

Unbeknownst to him, all of our boys, their wives, and the three grandangels, and even one of his best golfing buddies from Santa Barbara were all converging on Little Rock on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. They dutifully kept their heads down until Saturday morning, although we almost collided with our daughter-in-law and grandsons in the Little Rock airport coming in. It was the narrowest of narrow escapes!

On Saturday morning, after I finally got Mike out the door to Howard’s house for his supposed round of golf, all of the rest of us, including all my Little Rock family, gathered in a private room at Howard’s golf club to await the unwitting birthday boy’s arrival.

Howard, who had helped me set up everything related to the golf outing and brunch, reeled him in like a mullet on the line with a story about having to check a party room for a friend of his who wanted Howard to host a party for him at the club. My dear mullet swallowed the tale hook, line, and sinker. Howard looked in one room and sent Mike up to check out the one we were quietly waiting in.

When Mike pushed the door open to check out the room, he thought he’d walked in on someone else’s party and shut the door. Howard pushed it back open and we all did the “Surprise!” thing and, I have to say, he truly was surprised. Which with him is no small feat, let me tell you. Somehow he always finds me out. I don’t know how, but fate just conspires to tip him off.

We enjoyed our breakfast (complete with mimosas and Bloody Marys) and sent two foursomes out to play golf on a sweltering Arkansas summer day. The rest of us dispersed to enjoy the day in other ways or were off to set up for a family birthday BBQ bash later that night at my sister’s house.

I have to say, I felt like I’d run a major campaign when it was finally over; I hid, dissembled, told secrets, and out-right-lied with a straight face for 6 or 8 weeks to pull this thing off. The strain was nearly intolerable…I can’t tell you how many times I almost slipped and said the wrong thing. I would not have made good spy fodder, that’s for sure. But it was worth it in the end to see the look of surprise on his face!

I’m just thankful that it’s over and until maybe birthday number 70 or 75, I won’t have to think of doing anything remotely similar!


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