Last month, we celebrated my dad’s 60th birthday. It feels so weird to refer to my dad as 60. I’m sure he finds it even odder. My dad is young at heart, that’s for sure. He’s the life of the party, the guy everyone wants to hang out with, the friend everyone is happy to have, and for me, the best dad I could have ever asked for.
For years I had been planning a big surprise for his 60th birthday. Yes, I said years. I think it was almost 3 years ago (before my son was born in fact!) that I found inspiration for this project while perusing Pinterest. I was going to compile 60 Years of Memories for my dad. It was a huge undertaking. I spent a lot of time and energy on this project. So, to finally see everything finally come to life has been amazing, and I want to share my dad’s 60 Years of Memories birthday surprise with you.
About two months before my dad’s birthday, I reached out to my his close friends and family. You’d think with technology being as advanced as it is now, this would be easy. Nope. Facebook made it impossible to connect with his friends that were not my friends. No one uses email anymore. And addresses can be hard to track down. I had my mom do some sleuthing but she couldn’t figure out his phone and on top of that, my dad doesn’t even know his own Facebook password, so that was a bust. In the end, we got the letter successfully out to more than 40 people.
Since our letter was personalized, I won’t share the full text but basically I asked this:
My dad has touched the lives of so many people, in so many ways. Whether he is your painter, a business colleague, a distant cousin, or someone you call “uncle”, he has a way of making his mark in our lives. So to celebrate his birthday, I am putting together a little surprise: “60 Years of Memories” to show him that we all care about him. If you have a spare moment in the next week or two, I would be so grateful if you’d jot down a favorite memory you have. You can email it to me, put it in the mail, or even reply by Facebook message. You can mention anything you like! But the more nostalgic the better! Please feel free to send more than one memory, but make sure you write them on different pieces of paper so we can split them up.
Then, I waited. A memory would trickle in every few days. Way slower than I was expecting. I started to get pretty bummed at first because I was having trouble connecting with people, and the responses didn’t seem to be coming in. Was I asking too much?
And then one day, they started to POUR in. I reached the point where I actually had too many memories! I only had 60 envelopes!
I had so many memories. Colleagues, old bowling league buddies, guys that considered him their “Uncle”, great aunts, cousins, and so many other people really came through and poured their hearts into some awesome memories. I would read them as they came in, and I’d laugh and even cry. I was seeing a whole different side to my dad. A “self-proclaimed” ladies man as a teenager; a sports fanatic; a caring friend; a troublemaker at work; a “lucky bastard” for finding my mom. He is the guy you could always count on for support, for friendship, for help, and for laughs. It was so obvious, my dad is loved.
And I couldn’t wait for him to see just how much.
I spent a full night stuffing envelopes. Sixty of them. Some had two memories in them because there were just so many!
I was torn between leaving the envelopes unmarked or numbering them. I had thought about buying labels, but I decided to number them by hand instead. I probably should have bought labels, because 60 envelopes later, my hand really hurt.
I packaged them up for the big presentation the next day.
My dad had no idea we had been working on this. It’s a rarity when we can catch him off guard. It helps that I live far away, and that I also threatened most of his “big-mouth” buddies if they told him about it…
The first thing I had him do, before we delved into 60 Years of Memories, was read the letter I sent to everyone.
And then we started with number one.
I ended up reading all 60 Years of Memories to him, and we worked through that stack for over an hour. He had fun guessing who wrote the memory. There were lots of laughs, some tears, and many explanations about some of my dad’s questionable behavior.
He was pretty overwhelmed that there were sixty envelopes full of memories all about him. Honestly, there could have been a lot more if I didn’t double stuff some of those envelopes!
This was probably the best project I’ve ever gotten myself involved in. I was happy that my dad could relive so many great moments and share the stories with us, but I also really loved being able to discover the impact he’s had on this world in just 60 years. Every day, you go about your life, and you never realize how something so small can mean so much to another person. In the moment, you don’t realize that something as simple as waking up early to watch cartoons will be a lasting memory for your nephew or that your little league baseball coach will remember you 50 years later. Something so silly as making donuts in the snow in the Shaw’s parking lot with your brother will be enough to make you laugh yourself to tears. Or doubling over in laughter as you recall the time you raced through the parking lot after a football game and had to brake so fast you sent your nephew flying into the front seat of your van. A simple memory from your wife such as dancing at her brother’s wedding will make you both smile at each other when you remember that moment from 28 years ago.
In sixty years, he’s made a lifetime of memories. And he’ll make a lot more in the years to come.
Happy 60th Birthday to my dad!