I passed half a century recently, and my beloved wife planned a surprise birthday celebration for me. She had started planning for it about 6 months earlier and did such a good job of it that I was truly surprised; well at least until 15 minutes before the actual surprise party.
There had been a few occasions when I did find things were a little out of the ordinary, but nothing that didn’t have a plausible alternative explanation, and since I’ve never had a surprise birthday party before, I wasn’t expecting any such thing this time around either, so I didn’t give the few out of the ordinary occurrences a second thought.
But the cat was let out of the bag very inadvertently when I was in the car heading home after picking up my daughter and then proceeding to collect my own birthday cake. Isabel was driving and I had been sent on this rather depressing errand (arranged to get me out of the house) when my phone rang and it was Mary on the other line; except she hadn’t called me intentionally and had accidentally pushed the quick dial to my phone. After a couple of ‘hellos’ that went unanswered, I heard Mary in the background saying ‘now we just have to wait for the birthday boy to come home’!!
Well, I turned to Isabel and told her what I heard and she just groaned in frustration and exclaimed that all the effort of keeping it a secret had just gone down the drain. But she did an excellent job of keeping the other aspects of my surprise celebration away from me. I was under the impression that my friends had been gathered rather informally on a pot luck basis for a small surprise party at home, and Isabel encouraged me very competently to believe that was the case.
When I got home and entered the house, everyone there shouted ‘surprise’ and I did my best to pretend to be surprised, but it wasn’t very convincing. After saying thanks to everyone for the surprise, I stepped into the formal lounge and received a very real surprise, almost bordering on shock. For there, in full vestments was Fr. Pat and Fr. Thaddee, standing in front of a makeshift altar all ready to say mass!
What followed was a beautiful and touching home mass with my family, relatives and close friends. It must have been very dusty in the room, because my eyes kept getting irritated and tearing…
After mass came another surprise. I had been wondering why all my guests were dressed to the nines. Well that’s because dinner wasn’t potluck in the dining room, but a full western dinner at Wantirna Club!
The dinner party went smoothly and my kids said a few touching words about my role as their father and they then presented a song to the tune of ‘Just the way you are’ but with the lyrics changed.
I also received some very nice presents and truly, it was a night I will never forget (barring Alzheimer’s). I wish that more of my friends could have been invited and could have come, but circumstances are never perfect, and resources are always limited.
I want to say “thank you” once more to my beloved wife and children and relatives and friends for this most memorable birthday evening.
Photos by Stephen and Aaron Chua can be found here.