My moms had her 60th surprise birthday on Saturday, December 11, 2004. It was actually her actual birthday. Now, for most people, something like this would go off, as they say, without a hitch. Most people, of course, are not my family. I think before my relatives came off the boat, before they changed the last name to Shannon, it must have been Murphy, you know the one who had a law named after him. Maybe they wanted to sound less Irish, I don't know.
Overall, the shindig went very well. Nice turnout, my mom was genuinely surprised, and I could tell she had a really nice time. But before I get to that, let's just make a quick rundown of all the stuff that went wrong:
1) No one was there to open the door. Now, this seems like a small oversight on the part of the Monroe County Parks and Recreation Department. But when my brother called and said no one was there to open the place at 10:00 AM, we got a little uneasy. My dad began to slightly panic, and a slight panic for my dad is like a major panic for just about anyone else. My dad panics about not taking out the trash. I wasn't panicked, I was pissed. I'm not one of these people who gets all uppity and mad about things and calls places and asks to speak to supervisors and threatens to call lawyers and all that shit, but I left a very pissed-off message with the answering machine that they had at the county. My brother, a rookie cop, had to call in a bunch of contacts he knew from "the force" to bust into the place. I, of course, thought it would be so much cooler if he just shot the lock or kicked the door down, but my bro must be one of those "by-the-book" cops. When everything was over and we were cleaning up, I wish we hadn't mopped and swept up. If the county tried to charge extra for not cleaning up, we could have said, Well, we weren't even able to get in, how could we have made a mess?
2) We nearly started a small electrical fire due to a faulty fuse or something in a coffee machine. We're putting up streamers and balloons and crap and suddenly there is a loud pop. I look over by the kitchen area and see several bursts of fire like firecrackers. Someone got the smart idea to actually pull the coffee machine away from the wall, causing the plug to pull away from the outlet. The place was made mostly of brick, and there was a fire extinguisher close by, so it wouldn't have been horrific, but it gave the old folk quite a scare.
3) My dad was supposed to bring my mom at 1:00 so we could have a somewhat large contingent of people do the old "surprise" move when my mom showed up. Instead, he shows up at ... 12:15! My brother says, "Yeah, that's dad's car, they're here." We were still doing prep work and my dad shows up 45 minutes early. Well, turns out my mom's sisters wanted her to show up early so she could spend a little time with the family before all the other folks arrived, but it was a little weird to have this big empty hall and about a dozen people saying "surprise" when we were really the ones caught off guard.
Other than that, everything went very well. I saw people I haven't seen in several years. It was nice to see a nice mix of older, younger and middling folk. I think my mom really enjoyed seeing all these old friends and family members. My mom had a pretty serious injury a couple of months ago, and I think it took a toll on her psyche a little bit. But she was right in her element. My mom is a very sweet woman, and she's always been very good to me. It was nice that everyone was able to show her how much she means to them. To me she really doesn't look 60, either.
A funny thing my mom told me before most of the people showed up: "If I died yesterday [when I was 59], people would have said, 'Oh she died so young.' But if I drop dead tomorrow, they'll say, 'She lived a good, long life.'" Amazing how numbers can color our perception. I'm not even 30, yet that magic number approaches me like the crocodile in Peter Pan that swallowed the clock stalked Captain Hook. 60 years old is more than twice my life away. I can't even fathom that concept.
One thing I realized is that I have almost no capacity for sincerity. Here we were at a very nice event with a bunch of nice people who only came to wish us well, and I tormented them with out-and-out bullshit almost the entire day. Whenever someone would ask me a question like, "What are you doing these days?" instead of telling them what I did, I would make up some phony, preposterous story. And the story would always change. I'm sure I told someone I just escaped from prison. Male modeling was one I used. (It's funny when you look like me and you tell someone you've been doing male modeling with a straight face; their reaction is priceless. It's as if they can't believe it, but don't want you to know they can't believe it. So the look on their face starts as surprise, then morphs into a false sense of being impressed.) I told one very sweet lady with whose son I graduated high school that I never graduated. She had a befuddled, confused look until my mom swooped in and saved me, saying, "Oh Billy, you did so graduate." That's when it comes to bite you in the behind: when you say something that you know is totally ridiculous and yet the person you tell assumes that you would actually tell the truth about something and believes you. On one hand I felt kind of bad for being such a charlatan most of the day, but on the other hand I have to admit, I was on.
Another thing I learned about myself: beer and more than 1 slice of birthday cake will put me to sleep before 8 PM. Every single time.