Friday, January 25, 2008


So there I am sitting in my chair last night watching the late news and wondering why Mary agreed to go out so late to help a friend. The phone rang, her friend was apparently in sobbing distress on the other end of the line and Mary was making calming noises on her end. The story, she explained to me, was that her teacher colleague had had a verbal confrontation with an irate parent at last evening’s parent/yteacher conference and was so upset she just needed someone to lean on and offer empathy and a good dose of sympathy. So despite it’s being 9:30 in the evening and a frigid ten below zero outside, Mary dutifully left the comfy warm confines of her home and the stellar company of me, her husband, to rush to the aid of a friend in need.

The telling part of this is that I didn’t once question Mary’s actions. She is the kind of person who would do that—rush to the aid of a friend in need. So despite my protesting the late hour and the nasty cold outside, she dashed out of the house on her proclaimed mission of mercy. She is such a liar. And her friend who placed the call was a co-conspirator in the subterfuge. Her bogus phone call was all part of the plan.

A little background might be in order here. For the past month or so, Mary has been wandering out of earshot whenever she talked on the phone, especially when one of the kids was on the other end. She’s never done that before so though I noted it, I didn’t place too much meaning on the practice. Maybe she was just getting hard of hearing and needed a quiet place away from my intrusions into the conversation. Yeah, right. I should have realized she was up to something. My bad habit of tuning her out much of the time and just nodding my head in her direction whenever I sensed her talking to me, worked against me and in her favor during this time of deceit. I should have been paying better attention.

You see, this weekend is my birthday weekend. My actual birthday is on Monday, but Mary has decided that the whole weekend should be dedicated to celebrating. The surreptitious phone calls were part of the planning. The fact that it is my 60th birthday—something of a milestone—makes her plans understandable. Since I tend to downplay most birthdays, I was not expecting anything special to be going on. I had my head up my a,,, I mean my head in the sand and was totally oblivious to her subtle conniving.

When I think of the best birthday present I could get, Mary must have read my mind. So when she returned home at nearly 10:30 she brought along the best present I could ever receive. She didn’t actually go to her friend’s house on a mission of mercy. That was just a ruse to get her out of the house. Instead, she went to the airport and picked up a precious cargo from California, my daughter. When Carrie walked into the house, yelling “surprise, happy birthday, Dad,” I sat there dumbfounded and speechless for a couple seconds and then blurted out the stupidest thing that most surprised victims do, “what are you doing here?” I am such an idiot. Then of course I recovered my senses and initiated a round of hugs that I can still feel.

The best present I could ever imagine is here for the weekend. Am I a lucky guy or what. Happy birthday indeed.

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