Oh my goodness! What a weekend. My two sisters, Beth and Leah, and I threw my dad a surprise 70th birthday party. We also had help from my mom and my Aunt Sessie. It began months ago, with planning and invitations sent all over the country. We invited his closest friends and family, some of whom we hadn't seen in years. We invited his schoolmates as well as people he has met in recent years. We all were pretty sure he would end up finding out about the party because so many people were invited, but we were hoping and praying that we could pull it off. Here's how it went down.
We told Dad that Leah and her family were going to come visit for the weekend since they live relatively close and that we were going to celebrate my birthday and his birthday since Leah couldn't come last weekend and wouldn't be able to come for Dad's real birthday. So on Friday Leah and Jay came to town. However, unbeknownst to Dad, Beth and her boys also came to town. Chris (Leah's husband) was going to pick Steve (Beth's husband) up at the airport after work. Aunt Sessie picked Beth up at the airport and let her borrow her car to drive to Cornelia. Leah and Jay and Beth, Jake and Garrit came to our house Friday afternoon where we concocted this plan. Dad knew we were going to come over and have pizza for dinner Friday night. So, we decided to have the boys "deliver" the pizza. We went and picked it up. When I got to Mom and Dad's house, I told them the pizza delivery guy was right behind me and could Dad go help the pizza guy. Well, we all kind of hung around outside which was kind of weird, but Dad didn't pick up on it. Garrit got out of the car and walked toward Dad with his sunglasses on. He said, "I have your pizzas, sir." Dad said, "Great, you can just put them in there", not even recognizing Garrit. Leah said, "Doesn't he look familiar?" and Garrit took off his sunglasses. Then Dad saw Jake and Beth walking toward him. He was so surprised. After dinner, Dad and the boys went to the store for ice cream (of course). Chris and Steve arrived while he was gone. When Dad came back, Steve sat in the living room pretending to be reading the paper. Dad came in and looked around at all of us and realized it was Steve. He was blown away! He looked at us and said, "You guys! What's next? At my age you have to worry about my heart!" We thought, "Oh, if you only knew!" We told Dad later that night that we were going to have a family picture taken the next day since we were all together. He thought that was great. The plan had begun.
On Saturday, the guys took Dad to play golf (which wasn't very hard to do. Leah, Beth and I ran around like crazy trying to get everything in place and set up for the party. We got it done, but soon after it poured down raining. I mean, cats and dogs. We were a little worried, but I really prayed that God would move the storm away, that He knew why we were doing this for Dad, and He knew that we needed good weather. Well, God came through once again and the weather cleared up. We got there and visited with our sweet family and friends until 5:00 when Dad was getting there. Beth and I and our families went upstairs into The Lodge where we were supposedly getting our pictures made. Leah's family and Mom and Dad came and met us there. We had our pictures made and then the "photographers" my friends Jay and Kim, said, "Let's go take some pictures outside. It's really pretty out there." We said, "Great" and off we went. We led Dad down the stairs to the tent outside. He thought there was a wedding reception there, but when he heard "SURPRISE!" he knew that he had been had. He was just shocked. He has assured us many times that he knew nothing. Amazing!
The time together at the party was unlike any I have been to. It was such a sweet time of fun and fellowship. Dad got to hear people say things about him that most people would only say at someone's funeral. Most of Dad's friends and family got up and talked about the impact he has had on their lives. Tears and laughters filled the tent for more than an hour. It was truly special. Dad was overjoyed and overwhelmed. His thankfulness and awe made the whole night worthwhile. It was so wonderful to do something so neat for someone who does so much for others. I will always remember that night for as long as I live.
The rest of the weekend was just so neat spending time with our family. I am so blessed and amazed at God's goodness and grace. He used my Dad, a sinner to the nth degree to change the course of our whole family. What a testimony to the love of Jesus.