One year ago, to the weekend, I was feted as the “author in residence” at Kennebec Fruit Company in Lisbon Falls. Members of Moxie Nation know it simply as “The Moxie Store.” That book signing for Moxie: Maine In A Bottle, took place on May 5, 2012; it doesn’t seem like it was one year ago, but it was.
Yesterday, my sister and I pulled off a surprise 80th birthday party for our father, Herman the German. The location was another Lisbon Falls landmark, The Slovak Social Club, on Avery Street.
My sister and I with our parents, Helen and Herman.
There’s a saying that “time waits for no man,” and it doesn’t play gender favorites, either. The seconds, minutes, and hours of life continue ticking away and then, the clock ticks no more.
The day was a special one. I’m happy to report that thanks to the fine work of St. Helen of Immaculata and a creative ruse employed, the day of the party arrived and Herman had no inkling that he’d walk into a room filled with just a shade less than 100 family, friends, neighbors, and former co-workers. It was a fitting tribute to a man who stoically went about his life and managed to influence and touch many without ever intending to.
Writing about our family and particularly fathers (and mothers) is territory fraught with danger. It’s impossible not to let our own biases, flawed perspective, and even our own personal issues cloud the picture.
Holding up our Herman masks.
The purpose of this brief blog post is to say that from my perspective, the day was a special one. It also made me reflect on life, the people we know from our earliest years (especially in the place where we’re born and grow up in), and the complexities of time.
Sometimes we set the bar on our expectations too high in planning a party or an event, and the end result is that it falls flat. With this party, my goal when I first met with Julie-Ann to talk about a surprise party was to keep it simple, but also do something that would mean something to our father.
As I mentioned to my sister, who employed her considerable party-planning skills and really made this event happen, “if we do nothing else but get a group of people together for one more visit, then we’ve accomplished something monumental.” That happened yesterday and I’m pleased that I had a small part in this.
Me and the party planner.
On Friday afternoon, after setting up the chairs and readying things for Saturday’s big event, I was looking from the stage towards the open door out onto Avery Street; I said to Julie-Ann, “it’s like looking out through a time tunnel.”
The smell of “Da Club” reminded us both of Baumer’s Barber Shop, the hair emporium that was presided over by our late Uncle Dick. What I thought was hair tonic and other smells was mainly stale cigarette smoke, which many private venues like this Slovakian social club probably possess. Stale smoke, or not, it was a pleasant memory of another family member who has passed on to what I hope is a better place.
Memories are what a life lived gets filled with. Hopefully, the memories are mainly pleasant ones. Sometimes remembering is more about perspective, forgiveness, and thinking about the good and pushing aside the bad.
It’s hard for me to believe that my father is 80, or he will technically be so on May 14. The logistics of pulling off the party necessitated making it happen a tad early, on Saturday.
While it’s hard to believe Dad is 80, I’m also wondering how I got to be 51, and that Mark, our son is now 29. Looking around the room yesterday, I knew almost all of the guests (many of them my father’s age, and a few a bit older) when they were my age, or younger. Some of them I remember when they weren’t much older than Mark.
I’m thinking about all of this today, on this day after, which in time parlance, is another day later.
My father and his sister, Rita.