Sixty sounded so sinister to me; an ominous birthday.
I wanted to dodge that bullet. When Lory asked how I wanted to celebrate my 60th I said, “I want to hide. I want to be alone. I want to avoid any mention of it. I don’t want to acknowledge that it’s actually happening.” Tongue was only partially in cheek.
She persisted, and I agreed to a family gathering. Sue offered to have a party at her house, since it’s location near Boston is central. So Lory, Sue and Jonathan, with help and cooperation from Chip, Alex and Hannah, put it together on Saturday, August 26, three days before the actual birthday. They invited my brothers and sisters: Chet, Bill, Art, Al, John, Dot and Gwen, and their respective partners, as well as my close friends and colleagues, Herb Adams and Dick Drinon. That was enough. Plenty.
We arrived on Friday afternoon so Lory could help Sue put last minute pieces together, and they told me to stay out of the way. When my mother wanted us to get out of the way she would say, “Make yourself scarce.”
I got out of their way by taking a nostalgia trip to my childhood home in West Medford, twenty minutes from Sue’s house in Reading. I wanted to see the old neighborhood I moved from fifty years ago. I decided to look for Bobby McCarthy, who I’ll tell you about soon in a sermon, available later at our web site.
On Saturday morning, just before the party, Sue went to pick up the cake. “Do you want to see it now or later?” I chose now, expecting the usual words and numbers written in frosting. Wrong! One half of that huge cake had a photograph of me at age twelve—one of my favorite photos. Like the number 60 itself, it took me by surprise and a flood of emotion was triggered by the memories of that boy who never left! Bango!
At the party they gave me an album with letters and photographs contributed by everyone there as well as some from old friends they had asked.. Again, bango!
Then for the piece de resistance they brought me into the living room where they had set up the big surprise: a real, fully functioning pinball machine! I nearly lost it, totally. Alex, who had seen me play the pinball machines in Old Orchard for years, made the suggestion to get it. I tried to play, but felt self-consciously overwhelmed.
Before the day was over I gained an intimate acquaintance with the machine as the twelve year old boy on the cake came out to play! Our new family room will be filled with pinball sounds and flashing lights. “Return with me now to the good old days of yesteryear when the Lone Ranger rides again!” Sixty? It’s a snap!