July 16th found us back in the truck, this time headed to Haines, Alaska for a visit with Dave’s folks. The trip to Haines is always fun, for so many reasons. And this trip promised to be even more fun than usual, as we were going not just for a visit but for a surprise party of epic proportions. My beloved father in law, Roy, was turning 80 and it seemed a good reason to celebrate.
My sister in law, Megan, along with my sister in law Mery, my wonderful mother in law, Carol and even myself(I just had a tiny part in all this) began planning a party last summer. Invitations were mailed around the country, and given out all around Haines, with strict instructions not to let on if Roy started asking questions. A hall was rented, decorations purchased, a potluck arranged.
The Anchorage Lawrence crew planned a trip to Haines, under the premise that July 16-21 were the only possible dates for us to spend in Haines, and wasn’t it just grand that it happened to coincide with Roy’s birthday! We were just the foil. We arrived early Thursday morning, and that evening, people started streaming into Haines from all over. Over the next few days the roads between the ferry terminal and Haines International Airport were practically smoking as we made clandestine trips back and forth to pick up friends and family streaming in from all over the state and the country.
Megan and her friend Amy were the first in, coming in Thursday night from Washington State. Then the next day the ferry brought Nina and her hubby, Christian and their little girl Naomi(Roy and Carol’s 1st great-grand baby), from Washington DC, and Deanna and her boyfriend Ben in from Oregon, Steve (one of Dave’s brothers) and his terrific and extremely fun girlfriend, Shellin, from Juneau, and a host of other friends and family. Saturday morning brought still more guests.
Haines is not a big place, and finding hiding places for all of these people was quite a challenge. There were friends and family members stashed in houses and hotels on nearly every street. All with warnings not to drive in front of Roy and Carol’s house, for fear he would see them and know something was up. hiding someone in a town of 2000 might not seem like it is that hard, but try hiding a couple dozen, including children, grandchildren and a great grandchild of the guest of honor. Now imagine that the guest of honor, from whom you are trying to hide these people, lives on the main street in town and the only road to the ferry terminal. It was pretty funny!
Everywhere we went in Haines, for the first couple of days we were there, people would pull us aside and whisper something about the party, what they were planning to bring, what gift they found, what one of Roy’s necklaces they were going to wear, etc etc. It is a good thing that Roy is now really hard of hearing!
And on July 18, it all came together in spectacular fashion! A bit over 200 people crammed into the ANB/ANS hall in downtown Haines. The place was decorated with balloons and streamers and a fantastic banner put together by Megan, with pictures of Roy thoughout his life.
My kids and Dave spent the day with Roy and at 5:30pm, began a walk to the park. As they walked past the ANB/ANS hall my kids urged Grandpa to go on in and see why all the cars were there. Grandpa was reluctant, saying that there must be some kind of meeting and they probably don’t want to be disturbed.
Finally, Broder opened the door and peeked in,
then a bit wider and in came Roy. 200 and some people stood up and sang “Happy Birthday” to a very overwhelmed and astonished Roy.
To see the look on his face as he surveryed all those people there to celebrate his birthday, and then to see his face, and the tears, as he saw his children grandchildren and finally the great-grand child he had never met, only seen pictures of, standing right there.
I don’t have the words to describe what we all felt at that moment.
For the next couple of hours, people ate, and talked and laughed and laughed and laughed. The whole town of Haines seemed to be there.
Countless people told me how Roy has touched their lives over the years, things from teaching a young kid to ride a bike when the child’s own father was too busy, to giving of his drift net catch to a family of 10 that could really use the fish, to being the guy who gave the troubled kid a 2nd, 3rd, 4th chance, and the stories went on and on and on. Roy is a a man who loves and is incredibly loved.
After the party was over and the hall cleaned up, the family, headed over to Mery’s house for our own private after-party. We all stayed up way too late, and enjoyed our selves very very much. It was a wonderful time.
Throughout all of this, I was reminded again, of how blessed I am. I have the great family I was born into AND the great family I married into.