60th Birthday Dinner
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Well, it happens. You know what I mean, or if you don’t, you will. Along comes your sixieth birthday out of nowhere. I mean it was just yesterday I was whining about turning 50, and the day before I was complaining about turning 40. I told my son LeRoy that it is like falling off a tall building. The first few decades, or stories, move by slowly—you have time to do so much, everything seems to last forever—but with each new decade, the speed picks up. Suddenly, it’s Christmas and you were thinking summer just started. Yep, they never told me it was going to be like this, thank goodness!
So, here was this young man, having a great visit with his family, and shockingly, they all want to take him out to one of his favorite restaurants, to celebrate his 60th birthday. Well, I had to face it. I was born in 1951, and sure enough, it was 60 years ago. It was the dark ages I am told. No personal computers. We didn’t even have a TV at first, and when we finally got one, it was black and white, had a tiny screen, and you had to get up and change the channel manually! Our phone was on a party line. You had to turn a wheel in order to dial, and the base and handset were connected to each other with wires. You had to stand by the phone and talk, right there. We had electricity, okay, so it was only really the dim ages and not the dark ages. No Internet, no GPS, no handheld calculators. Gel pens were not invented yet, and nurses wore white starched dresses with cool nurse’s hats on their heads. And a doctor wore a white smock, and had a mirror with, a hole in it, strapped to his forehead, and a stethoscope stuck around his neck. Stick shift was standard, and the VW bug was brand new, but with its rounded fenders, trunk, and hood, it fit in with the rest of the cars perfectly, so you hardly noticed it at first. Microwave ovens were decades off, and Harry S. Truman was President of the United States of America.
Okay, I have to admit it, I really am 60 years old, and I was born a long time ago. I will have a pity party later. Right now, I am going to enjoy the memories I made at my wonderful 60th birthday party given by my family!
The photo above shows you our little family. Dotti and I are in the front row, and you can probably tell how happy we were to have the entire group together. Dotti's beautiful smile jumps out and grabs you. I have to admit that those dimples really caught my eye on the day I first met her. They still do!
As for yours truly, what is to say? I am living a charmed life with an incredible wife, wonderful sons, a really sweet daughter-in-law, and a grandson who is awesome. And this one picture shows them all.
The setting was a restaurant, in Spokane, Washington, called Azteca, which serves Mexican cuisine. Being raised in Southern California, I was exposed to this wonderful food early on. Back when my age was still in the single digits we used to go to the very first McDonalds restaurant ever built, in San Bernardino, California. Just down the street from that famous establishment, there was a Mexican fast food place where my folks loved to stop. I saw them pouring hot sauce all over their food and thought it must be good. I picked up a little cup of it and drank it. I shouldn't have done that. I can still remember pouring water into my mouth, with no help at all coming from it. Hot, hot, hot.
See, this is what happens when you turn 60, you get lost wandering down memory lane.
Here we have the Coon men. Our oldest son Glenn is on the left and our other son LeRoy is to the right of me, with Grandson Kai, on the far right sporting a patriotic tee-shirt leaning on his grandpa's shoulder.
One thing the four of us like to do is to play basketball together, and we had a lot of fun doing it in 2006, (and to see our 2006 family reunion basketball page click here) and we enjoyed our games this year in 2011 as well! (Click on the "Basketball" link on the top navigation bar above.)
Kai got his grandpa a really nice birthday card. It started out as a normal sized card (8 inches x 5.5 inches), but it grew and grew as I unfolded more of it. There were 4 separate panels, each one twice as large as the previous one. So, number 4, the one you see me holding in the picture, was 8 times the original size! I had several nice cards this time around, including one from each of my sons that brought tears to my eyes. When I am surrounded by this much love, even turning seventy tomorrow (or based on the past rate of change, maybe later this afternoon) won't seem so bad. As the years go by, moments like these are what it is all about!
Here are Dotti and I with our new daughter Miho! I can't say enough about this girl. She is bright, cheerful, with a great sense of humor, and she turned out to be an incredibly hard working house guest, no matter how many times we told her to stop. (While this is normally a good description of Dotti as well, I am speaking of Miho.) Even when she went out shopping with Dotti, she helped Dotti in and out of the van, assisting Dotti in dealing with that bad right hip. Dishes, cooking, cleaning were all done when we were not looking. When we said our goodbyes at the airport, I told her one last time, "You really didn't need to do all of that." She stuck her fingers in her ears and said,"La, la, la..." not interested in hearing my protestations. Glenn has a jewel of a wife!
I know, you saw one like this already, but we have more smiles this time. This entire evening was a joy, and there was much laughter and story telling, and that isn't even mentioning the great food! Glenn treated us all to the evening meal and it was a wonderful present, where those we love could share the evening together. Frankly, just bringing Miho and Kai along with him to visit us was enough to qualify for a truly marvelous gift. And then dinner too. Thank you Son!
Kai, our handsome grandson, was enjoying his chips along with the company of Justin. The two of them had a lot of fun together this visit, with Justin spending the night with us one night so the two of them could play foosball and do other fun things. I think they will be passing emails back and forth as well in the future.
Justin is the son of Rachel, who will be the mother of our new granddaughter soon. (Little Emily is projected to be born around Dotti's birthday in early October!) Both Dotti and I have grown very attached to Justin and were very happy that he could join us at my birthday meal! We hope to spend a lot more time with him in the future months coming up.
This is what I always dreamed of as my sons were growing up. They are active, strong and healthy, and working to support themselves and their families. They both served in the military to help protect our country, and I couldn't have asked for better! If I should pass on at any time, I know they will be okay. In the meantime, they are also a lot of fun to be around!
My son the chief. It is funny how things worked out, but Glenn, who was named for me, and who is about 5 years younger than my father was when he passed away, ended up getting a lot more of my dad's genetic makeup than LeRoy did, who was named for my father. I was struck, not for the first time by the way, by the many mannerisms, coupled with body build and posture, that Glenn shares with Dad. It is almost scary sometimes when I look up and Glenn is leaning over the table, or walking away, or moving on the basketball court and I see Dad. This picture was taken in September of 1972, when Glenn was not even a year old yet, almost exactly 39 years ago. Grandma, Glenn, and Grandpa were there in Milo, Oregon, and it was the last time I saw my father alive. But it is amazing how much of him lives on in his grandson. And wasn't Glenn cute there in his little jumper? And Mom looked so happy. It was a Kodak moment as they say.
After dinner they decided to make the "birthday boy" look funny, as they sang the birthday song. The candles are lit on the cake, and the hat was bouncing around, while even the guy in the photo on the wall was getting a kick out of it. But it was a lot of fun, and it is wonderful being loved!
It was about here that Rachel, LeRoy's lady, came over to the restaurant from work on her lunch break. She only had a short time, and we didn't get a lot of pictures of her while she was there, but her taking the time to come was very much appreciated! We have yours truly, Kai, Justin (Rachel's son), Rachel, LeRoy, and Glenn in the photo. Unfortunately, we were missing Dotti and Miho from the shot. Later when we got the group shots, Rachel had already left, so we missed her for that, but I was very glad she came for the party, even though it had to be a short visit!
Glenn has a keeper in Miho! She really impressed Dotti and I and we were happy to welcome her into our family! It was her birthday too, since we both were born on August 23, but she wanted to keep this a dinner for Dad, so we played it that way. But I think it is pretty cool we share our birthday. (It also helps the old guy remember her birthday easily. )
In 1988, I took my honorable discharge, after 13 years of service, and I and my family, well, we "loaded up the car and we moved to Beverly..." Massachusetts that is, just north of Boston. LeRoy was 11, Glenn was 16, and I left the Navy because my ship was about to go on another cruise—thanks to problems in Libya and Lebanon, my last one was extended to 7 months, instead of the planned 6 months—and Dotti had really had her hands full with the boys while I was away before. It was time for Dad to be home full time, because teenage boys need their father especially. It was a difficult choice, but it was the right choice, even though I was only 7 years from reaching retirement. Looking back I am very thankful for the time I had with my sons that I would have missed out on if I had stayed in.
Here we were at a rest area on our drive north. My arm around both my boys, LeRoy leaning on his big brother's shoulder and all of us smiling. Memories, it’s what life is made of.
And here is the same group 23 years later. LeRoy is the big one, I am the gray one, and Glenn is the one exhibiting exuberant jocularity. As I said, memories, it’s what life is made of. Who could have predicted where we would be 23 years after we made that stop in Maryland? Who could have predicted that both boys would follow in my footsteps into the Navy as electronics technicians, or that Glenn would reach the level of chief petty officer and retire, way back there in 1988, on the road to Massachusetts? You just never know what life will bring.
One thing I was confident of back then was that my boys would do me proud, just like they have! I couldn't have asked for better sons!
And as if that were not enough, I have the best wife any man could ever have! Dotti is a great woman, a great wife, a great mother and I don't know how I ever could have been so lucky to have her. My wife who was so beautiful in 1988, is still gorgeous, and still mine: YES! Both boys have grown up, and her tee-shirt message ended up being true for our two sons, as well as for me. Dotti's love has made all of our lives better! Thank you Babe!!!
As I mentioned, Miho and I share the same birthday, and while the cake originally didn't have candles for her, I added them later in Photoshop. It was really nice of the kids to bring a cake, and give it to the serving staff, so they could bring it out at the right time, along with the sombrero and a song.
Dotti borrowed the cake stuff at the store, and wrote names on all the carrots. Miho had the honors of cutting the carrot cake, and she did it perfectly, with one name on each piece. Now, I am not sure about that number sixty. Really, I am just giving 30 a second chance. Would you believe my third crack at 20? How about 4th try at 15? Sadly, alas, however you slice it, it all adds up to three score.
Miho took this group shot for us, which included Dotti and I, our sons and grandson, along with Justin.
And on the other side of the table, Glenn and Miho were sharing a chair. The front door, and some windows were right behind Glenn from where I was sitting, so we had to take an angle shot to get that strong backlight out of the picture.
Another try at this picture of Glenn and Miho, and the flash cleared up the backlighting issue pretty well. By the way, Miho isn't just a pretty face. She has a master's degree as well!
Mom and Dad were enjoying our daughter's company and that guy on the back wall is still having a good time.
Another shot of our handsome sons. The parking lot outside was still brightly lit. We old folks have to get our partying done early, so we can be in bed when it gets dark.
And here she is, the joy of my life! My Dotti is so beautiful, especially when she smiles. It was the happiest day of my life when she said that she would be my wife. It has been wonderful ever since. I have been described as the most love struck fool on the Internet. Yep, that's me!
I wanted to finish with a couple of group shots with all the Coons together.
It was a great evening and I am so thankful that my family put so much effort into making this birthday dinner so much fun and so filled with love. When it comes right down to it, friends and family are the core of true happiness. Nurturing these will bring fruits of joy and comfort in the coldest and darkest times, while making the good times simply exquisite.
To my family, who as shown me such love, I give my thanks and, you will always have my heart and my devotion. After 60 years, this is what makes it all feel right and worth everything it took to get here, from the joy to the pain, and everything between. I am a truly lucky man.
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