Our kids haven’t always listened to us—that’s the way it is with kids.
I was worried they wouldn’t listen this time either, whether from a feeling they “owed” us a 50th anniversary celebration, or just a certainty that we would really like a big, splashy earth-shattering remembrance of the date and we were just pretending to be the two people we are and John wouldn’t actually walk out of a celebration he had asked them repeatedly not to force on us.
We asked that they use the money they would have spent to go on a summer vacation in our honor, buy that new mattress they’d been eyeing or the new tires that would make us more confident when they make all the trips to drop off the kids at school or camp or baseball or soccer or gymnastics.
And they promised us.
But I was nervous as the date came closer, worried that we know these four too well and something was in the works. There were too many coincidences that led to concerns about something going on that we weren’t going to feel comfortable with.
Friends just happened to be coming into town and asked us to join them for lunch. Uh-huh.
All the kids asked if we could do a Zoom call on John’s birthday so the grandkids could regale him with the “Happy Birthday” song using their best Donald Duck voices the way he does for each of them on their birthdays.
Faces magically appeared on the computer screen, from Omaha, Nebraska and Charlotte, North Carolina, Webster Groves, Missouri, and a condo balcony in Gulf Shores, where our younger son and his family were on vacation, and getting ready to go crab hunting with flashlights.
They sang, we all laughed, and then our daughter, Katie, said they had an ulterior motive for wanting us to all be together on a Zoom call two days before our anniversary.
They had updated a presentation reminiscent of the one they’d done on posterboard for our 25th anniversary, before there were spouses and grandkids, when they used magic markers to count down funny reminiscences and wonderful memories.
This time, there was a PowerPoint presentation with fonts and downloaded photos, input from the grandkids, and 50 wonderful reasons for us to feel so very blessed, to laugh and cry, to marvel at the miracles we’ve been granted in our lives, and to thank them repeatedly for honoring our wishes.
From “#50 . . . years of marriage! What an incredible example you’ve set for us,” to “#46, the pounds of items baked by Mom anytime family visits,” to “# 37, the number of Amazon deliveries Mom gets per week,” to “#30, the years of tax returns saved in shoeboxes in the basement,” to “#17, the number of us who would love to join you in Pensacola, FL next summer for a family vacation,” to “#9 . . . beautiful grandchildren who are beyond lucky to have you,” to “#4 . . . children who seek to emulate you daily and be half the parents you are to each of us,” to “#2 . . . incredible people who found each other,” to “#1 heck of a beautiful life you have created over the last 50 years.”
And they told us at the end when I had to wipe my eyes and blow my nose for the 50th time, that there was one more surprise.
A reservation was made in our name at one of the nicest restaurants in town on our anniversary, where we would be welcomed and seated at a table strewn with rose petals, have the menu and the décor and every possible question we could dream up explained to us in depth.
Our meal and gratuity were paid by our wonderful kids and their spouses, and we smiled and cried (OK, I cried), and answered questions from the servers about our 50 years together and how we did it, and were gifted with lemon torte and gelato by the restaurant owners. The food was wonderful, the memories will last till our next 50th anniversary, and we have a family summer vacation to look forward to next year.
The kids listened to us! And we love them so very much.