Quite a few months ago I asked Jeff if anyone had ever thrown him a surprise party in his life and he said no. It got me thinking. We went to a restaurant in town and I thought: ‘this would be the perfect place to throw a surprise party.’ It was so spacious, with long tables, and would be a great spot for a group to gather. So I had that idea in the back of my head. Forward to April. Jeff’s birthday was coming up. I still had a feeling that I really wanted to throw him a surprise birthday party this year. He’s not one to make a fuss over his birthday, perfectly content to keep things very simple, which gave me even more incentive to want to do something different. First I had to be sure that he was going to have a chiropractor appointment on a day right around his birthday so he would definitely be making a trip to town. We always make those as frequently as he needs them and don’t always know very far in advance before the next one. Sometimes he goes every three weeks, sometimes every other week, sometimes every week. When it turned out that we set up an appointment for just the day I wanted, it felt meant to be.
Next I called the restaurant to arrange for a table to be reserved for us, and they put me in touch with the owner. I figured there would be plenty of space there, but wanted to do that just in case. Then I put the word out to friends and family. It was a last minute arrangement, in the afternoon, on a weekday, so I didn’t know if anyone would even be able to make it, really. But I knew it would mean so much to Jeff if it could work out.
The plan was to bring Jeff to his chiropractor appointment and then convince him to get a bite to eat on the way out of town. Everyone would be at the restaurant when we arrived and then… Surprise! That was the plan. But there are factors that can throw a plan off, as we all know. Jeff had gotten a cold and we couldn’t make it to market the weekend before, and the cold hadn’t been in my plans, so I hoped he would be all better in time. I asked my dad the night before if he could pick up some party hats on the way, since I knew I wouldn’t be able to sneakily buy them while I was with Jeff. Days earlier my aunt wrote on my facebook wall that they wouldn’t be able to make it to the party and then realized she hadn’t sent it as a private message. She couldn’t get it deleted at first, but then was finally able to. She was worried Jeff had seen it and she had given away the surprise. I didn’t think he had, but the day of the party-to-be I wondered if he was getting suspicious of my behavior. He said he wanted to wait and get groceries after his chiropractor appointment and run our other errands first instead. I insisted that we get all our errands done before the appointment, which meant we wouldn’t do some of them. He didn’t really understand why I insisted, but luckily he went with it. That morning he did something to mess up my plan a bit before we left the house. I didn’t want us to pack any food and then use that as an excuse to need to stop for something to eat on the way home. He packed us a lunch and brought it along in the car. To myself, I thought ‘darn.’
When we had all the errands run that we were going to do and went to his appointment, I felt nervous excited. He went into his appointment and when I knew he was nearly done, I asked the sweet receptionist there if I could use her phone. I explained what was going on. I called my dad’s cell phone, hoping he would pick up because it was a number he wouldn’t recognize, and when he did I said: “the fox is in the hen house.” (I just really wanted an excuse to say that.) To which he replied: “the hens are in the henhouse.” I told him we’d be a few minutes later than I’d predicted, but we’d be there. He said the group was gathering.
Jeff came out of his appointment and we got in the car. We were low on money so I knew he might not be enthusiastic about stopping for a bite to eat, especially since he had packed us a lunch. What to do? I winged it. I said something along the lines of: “I’m really not in the mood to eat this right now. It’s really salty. Why don’t we save it to put on top of a salad and have with our dinner when we get home instead? You know what would be really fun? Let’s grab a little something to eat. It was your birthday yesterday and it would be like a fun treat for your birthday.” When he went along with my suggestion, I breathed a sigh of relief inside. We were on our way!
I still felt nervous. Did he suspect something? Did he know about my plan somehow? Was he just going along with it to make me happy? (Also I realized we had gotten into my e-mail on his tablet to find a link a few days prior and then I worried if he had seen anything on my e-mail?)There was a spot to park right in front of the restaurant. We walked in and I saw the group in the very back of the restaurant, but Jeff didn’t because he didn’t have his glasses on. He went to order and I said “Let’s sit down at our table first.” He said “What? Why?” Without even answering, I put my hand on his back and started pushing him towards the back of the restaurant. He was very confused and wondered what in the world I was doing, but I just kept guiding him over there.
And then… Surprise! And oh, you should have seen the look on his face!! He was so surprised. It was hard for me to keep the tears in at this point, watching as the realization came that it was a surprise party for him and seeing how touched he was by it. Later he told me he was going to say “No, we can’t sit there, it looks like someone is having a party back there!” Then he realized that party was for him and he couldn’t believe it. He told me he had absolutely no idea and no suspicions. By the look on his face, I knew it was true. He was truly surprised. And he was amazed I was able to pull it off.
My dad and stepmom drove up from Southern Oregon. Some friends and neighbors came. I was so incredibly grateful to each and every person who came. It meant so much to us, more than I could say. With Jeff’s sciatic pain acting up lately and the stress he has been under, I so wanted something to lift his spirits and remind him how loved he is. I don’t think I could have done anything else that would have accomplished those things so well. He was so happy. It was such a fun group and we had such a great time.
I have to say our hearts were humming for a long time afterwards. It’s a day that our family will always remember. And now if someone asks Jeff if anyone ever threw a surprise party for him, he can say “Yes. Yes, they have.”
Happy Birthday, again, Jeff. You are so loved!