How appropriate that as I reach Mile 1970, my parents are turning 70!
For 3 weeks, I've been rushing around by car, on foot, and in the kitchen. There are quiches to be baked, napkins to be bought, and sandwiches to be ordered. Each morning, my inbox is filled with RSVPs as everyone converges on Philly for the big surprise party.
Aunt Patti generously agrees to host the party in her backyard. She and I schedule secret meetings. We pray for good weather. And get it! On the day of the party, it's 85 and sunny. The garden is dotted with lawn chairs and lanterns. Rainbows of flowers fill a dozen mason jars.
Everyone chips in. Uncle Steve and cousins Kevin and Jeff set up the yard. Mark and Andy bring beverages. Joe carts in toys for the kids. Stephen's on clean-up duty. And Sam has the job of getting Mom and Dad to show up. (The toughest task of all!)
At T-minus 1 hour, I race through the supermarket with a cart full of balloons. Breathless, I reach the bakery where our pre-ordered cakes sit waiting.
Back at the house, I carry out plates and boxes and bags. I walk gingerly across grass and stepping stones.
But primarily, I direct and delegate like the conductor of an orchestra. One that's been playing together for a very long time!
To understand this story, you need to know that I'm the OLDEST. The oldest child. The oldest sibling. The oldest cousin. The oldest grandchild. I have always been the oldest in the family.
But it was true. I was the organizer. My siblings and cousins always looked to me for answers. What are we doing for Mom's birthday? What's the dress code for dinner? Did you get Dad anything for Father's Day? Of course this was followed by, Can I go in on it?
So on November 9, 2010 -- the day of my accident -- a curious thing happened. I stopped being in charge.
My siblings and cousins called each other from across the country:
"What do we do?"
"Should we come to the hospital?"
"Should we drive or fly?"
"Have you heard anything?"
Everybody called everybody. And, according to legend, at least one person remarked, "I don't know! Rebecca always tells us what to do!" (I mean I can't say for sure, but that's the way the way the story goes.)
As you probably guessed, they all figured it out.
|Even Riley Cate did her part!|
|Discharge day from Jefferson|
Everyone called, everyone visited, and everyone kept my spirits high.
THEY took care of ME!
At Mile 1970, it's nice to be needed again.
Mark asks me how much beer to buy. (I overestimate by a mile.) Andy asks if we're getting a gift. (I tell him to investigate our options.) Tracy bunks in, as usual, at my place. (She even has her own bedroom.)
But as the afternoon wears on, we're all getting antsy. My parents were supposed to arrive a half-hour ago, but according to Sam's desperate text messages, they haven't yet left the house. Lateness runs in our family, but we need the guests of honor!
At a loss, I call Mom's cell phone and leave a whiny voice mail. "I'm at Aunt Patti's house. When are you coming?? I'm waiting for you, but I can't stay much longer!!" Over the past 3 years, she's received a string of messages like this one. She knows my staying power is not what it used to be. Today, of course, it's a hoax.
Finally they arrive, and we shout SURPRISE! The day blossoms into the party we planned!
|Lots o' neighbors!|
|Uncle Andy holds court :)|
|The 2 Patti's kick back!|
|Uncle Steve's first selfie!|
It's so great to be together that even "The Ringleader" starts to relax! My siblings and I gather together for a photo. Just for fun, we line up in age order. I take my place at the head of the line. I'm smallest in height. But with this group beside me, I'm tallest in pride!
|Some things never change!|
When the party's over and clean-up is done, Tracy and I arrive back at my apartment. Every bone and muscle in my body drags with exhaustion. It's been 16 hours in my prosthesis, almost all of them standing. Tracy heads out to pick up sushi, and I go into the bedroom to take off a very tired Genium.
It's been a long day, a long 1,970 miles, and an even longer 3 1/2 years. But as I release my socket and remove the sweaty liner, I'm still celebrating inside.
Happy 70th Mom and Dad!