On April 4, 1948, my dad was born in Bemidji, Minnesota. On April 5, 2008, we threw him a surprise party.
A little explanation: My dad is a quiet, shy man. He's painfully quiet and shy. At least it's painful for me. I think he's great and a lot more capable than I think he ever gives himself credit for. I sometimes just wish he would realize that.
I know that my brother and I (at least I, for sure) don't tell him nearly how often how much he means to us. So the celebration of his 60th birthday was the perfect excuse for us to let him know....in a big way!
I gathered some very old pictures from one of his sisters, (he has 3 currently living) which were simply gems! Elaine had inherited the family photos when their parents passed away a few years ago, so she had treasures from VERY early in his childhood. Among my favorites are one where he and his older sister and brother are lying in the grass. It seems so idyllic. Another is a picture of him from when he was in Vietnam. It's not a time in his life that he ever speaks of, so to have a photo of him during that time feels like a peek into a secret room that has been forbidden to me.
I took these photos, as well as some from my mom's albums from when they were first dating and when my brother and I were small, and (with the help of www.snapfish.com) made them into a keepsake album as a gift to him. Snapfish also has a great option where you can choose up to 30 photos and combine them into a poster. I made two of these to put up at the party as conversation starters.
We tried to invite people from all parts of his life. There were his family members, members of my mom's side, people he worked with as well as friends that they occasionally go to dinner and spend time with now. It seems like a simple thing to invite your loved one's family and friends, but, as I said, he's a quiet man and it was actually a much more difficult task than I would have imagined.
Lots of people came and enjoyed the afternoon celebrating Dad's life and letting him know how much he means to them. That was the goal. No gifts. Just pictures and memories and an appreciation for all that the birthday boy means to us.
Oh! And don't forget the cake!