I thought little of it. Eating at that restaurant, all of us decked out in our matching ski sweaters, is part of the long-term tradition of this annual trip. Plus, we’ve become friends with Katie, a server (waitress) there, and contact her every year to make our reservations. She (Katie) just really goes above and beyond any call of duty to take good care of us and be friendly to us. In fact, as a favor to us for the last two years, I have sent her money and she has bought for us deeply discounted ski lift tickets that are only available in local stores. Anyway, we really look forward to seeing her every year and were disappointed that we might not get into Denver in time on Friday.
Well, after arranging a tow, getting a rental minivan ($130 per day (!) – a ski resort rip-off), transferring people and essential baggage, and all the rest, we hobbled into Denver and made it to our hotel rooms at about 8:30 p.m. After showers and changing into ski sweaters, we made it to Katie’s restaurant at about 9:45 for a late meal.
When we went inside I was looking around for Katie and not paying attention to where the hostess was seating us. I noticed my daughters and others staring at me, grinning. I said, “What?” They glanced at the table they were standing around, so I looked at it.
Balloons! Centerpiece! Decorations! Wrapped gifts!
Topping the balloon bouquet were two 3-foot high mylar silver balloon numerals. Then I realized. (I can be very slow on the uptake
Friday was just over a week before my birthday, and my family had secretly arranged (through Katie, naturally) to have a party for me at the restaurant. And, as if that wasn’t sweet enough, they opted NOT to do the joking, black balloons, “You’re so ancient!” routine. Oh no! They did a “John appreciation” night and made me cry!
Oh, there were a few joke gifts and funny cards. They know, intimately and from YEARS of painful experience, of my proclivity for puns and jokes. But there were also serious gifts. Daughter Amy gave me a book of nothing but news, events, advertisements, movie listings, etc., from the year I was born. (Boy, did THAT make me feel old!) Aaaand…
Do you remember a picture that I posted here about a month ago, taken of me when I was 25? If not, don’t worry. I have a picture to show you just below.
Carol doctored up the photo and had it printed on a tee shirt with a caption…
Yeah, I know; you can’t even tell that the guy holding up the shirt is the same guy that’s in the picture. Doesn’t matter! Hey, if SHE thinks I
Oh, the caption at the bottom? That’s a reference to my novel. Which, by the way, is a slightly fictionalized version of how I met Carol, tried unsuccessfully to woo her away from the guy she was pinned to, learned of her later engagement to him, and just three weeks before their wedding… No, you have to read the book. Call your favorite literary agent or publisher and tell him/her someone just HAS to publish this story!! (Thanks!)
Anyway, back to the party. My two daughters and Misty (their good friend and someone Carol and I consider as almost an adopted daughter), AND their husbands, one at a time told me some of the reasons they appreciated me so much, and what an influence I had had on their lives, and darn if they didn’t get me wet-eyed!
And THEN (get this!) Katie had a gift for me. Plus she had bought a little stuffed bunny toy for Trevor. Not your typical restaurant waitress/patron relationship, huh? (Yes, I always give her a VERY generous tip, like about 50% of the tab, but still!! She earns it, I’d say.)
My daughters talked about memories of their Dad from when they were little through the present. They included some things I’ve written about on this blog, like reading to them when they were tiny, singing songs to them when we drove on vacation trips, advising them on career and job choices, doing their income taxes, and so on. Misty had even asked me to walk her down the aisle at her wedding as a surrogate father. It was sweet and touching. What a wonderful family I have!
Quick Update: Our van transmission will be rebuilt and should be ready to drive by tomorrow afternoon. If so I will be heading for Texas. More details to come.
Meanwhile, we’re waiting.