“This is such a great idea,” any number of people said the other day when we hosted a birthday party for my father at the Otesaga.
Not to be morbid, but the idea came from receiving lines at funerals. When my oldest brother died four years ago, I stood in a funeral receiving line for the first time. It felt like everyone had a story to tell about Stewart. I wished he could have heard them. He would have felt so loved.
When my mother died, the same thing happened. Person after person held my hand and told me a story about my mother and how much she meant to them. It gave me comfort to hear, but I wished my mother could have heard the stories too.
When Mr. Hanson, my 7th grade math teacher, died, his funeral was packed. The receiving line stretched out the door of the Vet’s Club and down the street. I wished I could have grasped his hand one last time, looked him in the face, and told him how much I appreciated him.
That’s why I started thinking about a party for my father.
I bounced the idea off my siblings. Before long, I was on the phone with the Otesaga. It had to be a strange call for their event planner.
Me: I’d like to have a birthday party for my father.
Planner: How many people do you expect?
Me: I have no idea.
Planner: I really need a number.
Me: I have no idea.
She worked with me.
I am so thankful for Brooke. She listened and guided and suggested.
For instance, she suggested that we use several adjoining rooms so it never felt crowded. She suggested we set up one room with comfortable seating, so my father could sit on a couch instead of a dining chair. She and her staff put out the decorations we had brought — books and photographs. She was wonderful.
The real quandary was how to get the word out. Friends of Bassett helped SO much. They blasted the invitation to retired physicians, current physicians, administration, and I forget who else. The local churches also helped to spread the word. As I ran into people at the grocery store or the gym or the post office, I invited them. It’s hard to corral a lifetime of people.
Among the first to arrive were two nurses from Dermatology, his last hold-out in his long and varied medical practice. He was delighted when he saw them.
From the home health aide who takes care of him,
To a former CEO of the hospital,
To one of his secretaries,
The next day, as he started working his way through all the cards, he asked, “How did all those people know it was my birthday?”
I just smiled.