This past weekend I made a quick trip from my California home to visit my parents in Delaware. I’m not usually the fast jet-setting type who just flies off to the other coast for the weekend, but this was a very special occasion – a milestone if you will. My father was turning 70.
Technically Dad turned 70 back at the end of May, but we were gathering to celebrate it here in June unbeknownst to him. Carefully laid plans for this momentous family celebration began last year. We wanted it to be a grand festive time with food, family and friends. Mother tried to find clever ways to get Dad out of the house so she could have freedom to make her preparations. I worked on getting invitations into the hands of their many friends both near and far - a list that seems to grow shorter with each passing year.
Dad was born in the thick of World War II in May of 1942. He was the second of two sons born to a photographer and a home maker. WWII was the impetus for what we were going to do for the party. I began with researching old war propaganda posters when creating the painting for the invitations. One poster in particular reached out and slapped me like the Allies did to Hitler. It had a ferocious yellow sky with bomber planes and a rugged Uncle Sam right in the middle. I made my Uncle Sam hold a baby that resembled an infant version of my father, and the bombers became a flying fleet of storks ready to drop their bundles of joy onto unsuspecting families.
Carrying the WWII theme inside the invitation was a newsreel spiel I wrote appropriate for the occasion:
NEWSFLASH: In late May of 1942 in the midst of WWII, the stork visited Kenneth and Jeanetta Frye of Wisconsin, U.S.A. with their second little bundle of joy. That year the advance of the evil Axis was curtailed, Bing Crosby opened up a Holiday Inn and had time for a trip to Morocco with Bob “Where’s My Oscar” Hope, Glen Miller earned the first ever gold record for riding the Chattanooga Choo Choo a million times, Bambi lost his mother, General Douglas MacArthur promised to return, and Sam was playing it again in Casablanca.
The day of the party was very special. Somehow through all the planning, Dad never caught on and was genuinely surprised to see us all there in the kitchen where he stood dripped in sweat from a golf outing with my uncle. Along with my aunt and uncle, all my siblings travelled from their far away homes, and old friends from Arizona, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Tennessee joined those newly formed friendships from Delaware. We had times of reflection, played games about 1942 and made fun of growing old, listened to 1940s music, and enjoyed good food and greater laughter. Best of all, we were able to give thanks to the Lord for the wonderful life He has given my father, and in respect, the life He has given us for having been a part of Dad’s life.
The next day as we all dispersed into the haze of our own corners of the country, the thought struck me that we aren’t promised long life, good health and happiness. We just take each day as a gift and live as we can before the Lord. I love my dad, and look forward to however many more of those special days God will give us together, and be grateful.