Sunday, July 9, 2006

Birthday Surprises


My dad just celebrated his 80th birthday, and on Saturday, I attended a surprise party given by his wife, his stepchildren, his stepgrandchildren, and a whole group of his friends that I had never met. If you had asked me 10 years ago whether I could have gone to a party like this, I would undoubtedly have answered "No *#$(@&* way!" But, age has a way of changing a person, and I guess we've both mellowed quite a bit in those intervening 10 years. So, I put on my game face, and showed up. He was well and truly surprised, and genuinely pleased at my presence.

Twenty years ago, 0n my dad's 60th birthday, my mother and I gave him a surprise birthday party. It was a little different than this one, but not a whole lot. About 25-30 members of his family, friends and business associates were there that day too. It was held in the dining room of the country club he had recently joined, instead of the lake front home of an old friend. He was totally and honestly surprised then as well. However, there were some notable differences in the two parties. At his 60th birthday party, my mother was the woman holding his hand during the toasts. When he opened gifts and cards, I was the one who jotted notes about who had given him what. And when he cut the cake, it was my 10 year old son, his only grandchild, who proudly helped him serve.

A lot has happened in the twenty years between those two parties. An affair that was meant to be kept secret was discovered. A 40 year marriage dissolved bitterly and acrimoniously. A young woman lost a lot of respect for her father, and a little boy lost the company of a grandfather he idolized.

For a long time, I guarded my pain and anger toward my father like a dog guards a bone. It was my power, my vindication, my strength. But about two years ago, I was gifted with the grace of forgiveness (which I wrote about here). So I was able to attend this surprise party, albeit with some moments of very bittersweet sadness, but also with some moments of genuine pleasure. No one was more surprised about that than I.

7 Comments:

Blogger susanlavonne said...

Becca, this couldn't have been an easy account to write but you did so poignantly and with grace, the same grace that it took at attend. It seems forgiveness ususally turns out to be a surprising gift that is returned to us a hundred-fold...thank you for this beautiful reminder.

7/10/2006  
Blogger jzr said...

Forgiveness is wonderful healing for all. I'm happy you recieved that gift.

7/10/2006  
Blogger Star said...

A very sensitive post, Becca. I'll send more thoughts later.

Thanks for including the picture; do you and your father have the same eyes?

7/10/2006  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Oh sweetie, good for you! I'm sure it took a lot of courage to be there, but it sounds like a good healing experience, both for you and for your dad. Lovely photo of you both!

7/10/2006  
Blogger Madeleine said...

Time really can heal, can't it? As hard as this was for you, I'm so pleased that you came away with some happy memories, and perhaps some wounds healed!
Perhaps as we get older we start to realise there is only one life....maybe!

7/10/2006  
Blogger Lainey said...

Beautiful!

Arriving at the place of forgiveness is like a breath of fresh air. I am certainly breathing easier these days!

Sounds like you are too.

7/10/2006  
Blogger deirdre said...

Forgiveness is such a difficult and scary thing. I too guard my anger hoping it will keep me safe. You've given me something to think about today.

7/10/2006  

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