As a family, we just concluded three days of spectacular merry-making in honor of our dad's eightieth birthday. We missed my brother's family. But this was the first time in over four years so many of us have been together. The entire weekend was amazing.
(I'm not gonna lie - we are all completely Exhausted! But it's that contented, job well done kind of exhaustion. You know, the kind of weary from fun you wouldn't have missed for the world but couldn't repeat right now if your life depended on it? Yeah, that kind of tired.)
At the time of this posting, my sister and her family have flown home to NC. My dad and his wife are pulling into their North FL driveway. Frank is taking a power nap. And the girls' families are in various stages of recovery. How grateful I am for my little crew.
Dad heard multiple versions of the Happy Birthday song. They were performed each time he was presented with one of his eight gifts. (One for each decade.) We even sang the hysterical Smith family version, "Happy, happy birthday. We know this song is short." (That's it. The entire song. Just two lines.)
We planned far too many activities. We ate too much food - both the healthy and the decadent, unhealthy kinds. We laughed too loudly. Slept too little. And started missing each other far too much before we even began our "good-byes."
But Dad left this three day party knowing, he is important in all of our lives.
There was the opening taco dinner together on Friday. A huge fish fry and BBQ lunch on Saturday. Frisbee, Spike ball, conversation, and corn hole competitions ran throughout the afternoon.
Uncle Chris delighted the bigger babies by coloring with them in the play room. Noah and Spencer fell in love with their second cousins Seth and Robbie. Aunt Vonnie squeezed babies to her heart's content.
Of course, we concluded the day with a bonfire and s'mores. (Until it started raining; then we all ran for the house.)
Frank even invited Dad to preach for our congregation on Sunday. Our church family is so loving and gracious. They provided the staccato responses of "Amen!" and "That's right!" While Dad provided a rousing sermon entitled "Crossing the Finish Line!" It was a lovely service.
A photographer in our church was on the ready following service and worked almost thirty minutes trying to capture a single family photo. Thirty minutes might seem extreme until you realize this was a group of 20 people:
- one infant
- two toddlers
- three small children
- one teenager
- two keenagers
- and eleven regular adults all trying to keep looking forward in spite of adorable baby sounds and hysterical jokes all around them.
Our poor photographer had his work cut out for him!
After nap time (which we all needed by Sunday afternoon,) we came back to church for a dinner of leftovers. We gathered in the sanctuary, turned on the video recorder and enjoyed an ol' fashioned singing, led by Dad who absolutely loves to sing.
He couldn't have been happier!
John played keys; Nathan played drums, Cody ran sound and Dad directed the proceedings. At some point, everyone present made it on stage. (Except Cody. Sound doesn't run itself.) Our girls even did an impromptu rendition of "This is My Story." Nothing so lovely as family harmony.
Before babies could get cranky, we gathered around Dad and Christeen to pray blessing for them. What an honor after all the times Dad has prayed for us.
Then just like that - our year of planning came to a close and we hugged one another several times before finally climbing into vehicles and heading to different homes for the night. (My hero husband got up at 3:00 AM to get my sister and her family to the airport for their predawn flight. Love that man o' mine!)
After a big breakfast, Dad and Christeen hit the road around 8 AM. I spent the remainder of my day quietly doing laundry, cleaning floors and bathrooms, washing dishes, returning furniture to its proper place.
One of my favorite lines from the entire weekend came from my sister. She looped her arm through mine as we walked, leaned her head close to mine and said, "Mama would be proud of how we've celebrated Daddy!"
My voice caught with emotion as I answered, "I think you're right."
(Deep Contented Sigh)