I planned a birthday party for my five year old – and no one showed up.
We had family coming in – my parents, Jen's brother, my brother, and their families – for Josie's Saturday afternoon birthday party in the park. She had requested a "hula party" for her birthday, so to get us in the mood, Friday night was supposed to be family event at the Polynesian dinner show restaurant. Before dinner, we just had to swing by the Board of Directors recruiting meeting for The Buoniconti Fund and pick up a flower lei for Josie. Kind of an odd request, but at the time, there was so much going on I didn't think much about it. Bet you can guess what happens next.
After suggesting (and being tactfully overruled) I wait in the car with the other kids while Jen and Josie ran in, we all headed into the "Board meeting." We passed an open storage room with beer and food (and I made a mental note that The Buoniconti Fund's Board knows how to recruit) and then headed up to a door with covered windows. "Strange", I thought, "They must be doing some kind of presentation… and we're walking in with four kids."
The doors opened… and even the "SURPRISE!!!" didn't fully help my brain make the realization immediately. It took seeing a few friends from Anchorage Poynte before it kicked in that the hula party wasn't (just) for Josie.
It was two months before my actual 40th birthday but regardless, there was a room full of people who loved us there to celebrate two special birthday milestones, one kid turning five and another about to make it to 40. Jen had pulled off a surprise that I still can't believe – advanced planning (at least the stress-free kind) and keeping a secret are not two of her strong suits. There were FL friends, NJ friends, CMU buddies, and family who had somehow escaped the wrath of Winter Storm Thor.
Adequate words fail me. I wish I could bottle Friday night and send it to every cancer patient taking his or her first step in the journey. (Ironically, there were three melanoma patients at the party. Kurt and Benny – that love was for you, too!) I wish that party was about 10 hours longer; it was tough to get more than a few minutes with anyone. I wish a few people from the Northeast didn't get snowed in and would have made it down (one couple waited 10 hours in LGA with their two young kids). Most of all, I wish I could figure out a way to repay the wonderful woman who put it all together for me. Jen's 40th is coming up this summer and the bar is now set waaaaay too high.
When I look back on the past (almost) 40 years, there will be many moments, plenty of stories, and countless adventures to re-tell (or not re-tell, in some cases). They will be filtered and sorted by the different levels of emotional involvement and sheer importance – the scale that separates the good from the great, and the great from the live-changing, and even the life-changing from the proverbial "best day I've ever had."
The last small group includes the usual suspects – wedding day, children's births, graduations, and other moments that were seminal to one's life, both at the time and in retrospect. I don't know if Friday, March 6, 2015, will ever top some of those moments, but it will be in the initial conversation for sure. I told Jen it was one of those "butterfly" moments, and they return every time I relive it in my head.
Now… what to do with all the stuff I bought for the party that never happened on Saturday??
T.J. Sharpe shares his fight against Stage 4 Melanoma in the Patient #1 blog. Read more »