Those Lying Eyes

I learned something somewhat troubling about myself this past week. I’m a hell of a good liar.

The good news is that normally I don’t lie. I almost always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The only exceptions are those white lies told in answer to questions like do these pants make me look fat, to which the answer is always either nope or look, it’s Haley’s Comet.

But this past week-and-a-half, I have been a big fat liar because I decided that since turning 75 is a big deal, Bill needed to have one last birthday party with our AZ family. And I decided to make this party a surprise. Undoubtedly, surprising him would have been a lot more difficult if his birthday had been this past week. But his birthday was October 19, a date long behind us, and once you turn 60, birthdays are quickly forgotten. So are grandkids’ names and the location of your glasses or cell phone, even if they’re in your hand.

The first thing I did was ask Bec if she would be willing to host the family for a shindig in honor of Bill, and she quickly agreed. That agreement took place when we were still in Denver, and we had a number of subsequent and secret telephone conversations, some while I was simply parked down the street from our house. I’m probably on Homeland Security’s short list by now.

The actual lying didn’t begin until we arrived in AZ. We arrived on Monday, and on Thursday I told Bill since I hadn’t yet seen my sister Bec, would he mind if I met her for a cup of coffee. I think I might have even worked up a few tears in my eyes. Since at that point he was still cleaning up the yard, my absence barely registered with him.

We did, in fact, have coffee, and I truly hadn’t yet seen her, so that really wasn’t a lie, right?

Anyway, we made our firm plans on the menu and the logistics. I would tell Bill that Bec had invited us for dinner Saturday night. The rest of the gang would arrive at her house at 3:30, and we would arrive at 4 or 4:15. I would text her when we left the house, and then again when we were about 10 minutes from her place.

On Friday, I told Bill that I had a book club meeting in Chandler, and set off for Bec’s house. Oh what a tangled web we weave. Bec and I, in fact, spent about three hours buying party favors, decorations, food, and beverages. We might have discussed a book at some point, so it wasn’t a total lie.

On Saturday morning, Bill asked what time we were supposed to be at Bec’s. I told him 4 or 4:15. But around 2 o’clock, our best-laid plans became threatened.

“What time do you think we should leave?” Bill asked me. “How about we leave around 3 or 3:15?”

Gulp, because that would get us there around 3:30, right at the same time as the others. I briefly considered simply telling him the truth, but instead I told him that there was no need to go that early because Bec was at Carter’s soccer game until at least 4. That seemed to satisfy him. Good liars think quickly on their feet.

And then around 3:15, he went to the refrigerator and pulled out a beer. “You don’t mind driving, do you? I’m going to have a beer.”

Now, the truth of the matter is I normally don’t mind driving one little bit. But even if it were legal to text and drive, I am simply unable to do so. So (and here is when I realized just how adept at lying I was), I agreed to drive, while, at the same time texting Bec Code Black, Code Black. A change in plans.

I told her that I was driving, so instead of texting, I would call her and innocently ask, “Are you at home?” That would be her clue that we were pulling off the freeway and 10 minutes out.

As we pulled off the 202, I asked Bill to hand me my phone so that I could call Bec to make sure she was home. Bill, being the ever-helpful soul that he is, simply called her himself.

Please don’t answer with something like Surprise Party Central, I thought to myself. She didn’t, of course. But she was surprised to hear his voice, and she was somewhat concerned about all of the background noise, what with all of the kids. Turns out, he didn’t even notice.

When we walked into Bec’s house, everyone did as they were supposed to, and hollered SURPRISE! In fact, there were a couple of horns blowing before we even knocked. I’m pretty sure it was 2-year-old Kelsie. It took Bill a bit to figure out that it was a party for him, but it helped when 3-year-old Lilly came over and handed him his birthday necklace. She was assigned the task because no one else could have talked him into wearing a necklace!…..

He didn’t have a heart attack from shock, the food was delicious, and the birthday cake was yummy…..

Perhaps best of all, it was another excuse to gather as a family that included most of Mom and Dad’s great grands. Carter was at a soccer tournament and Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole were at home in Denver…..

Too bad, because the boys could have used some help in numbers.

Happy birthday Bill, but this is the last time until October 19, 2018.


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. – Dylan Thomas

Those “decade” birthdays can be enough to kill a guy. I remember when I turned 30; I was in the midst of a divorce and had a fever of 103 because of strep throat. Had anyone even come close to making a “you’re over the hill” remark, I believe I would have killed them.

I was a bit worried about my 60th, because, well, SIXTY. But as it was, I was rewarded for my longevity with a wonderful party in which professional chefs taught my grands and me to make pasta. And I’m a long way – ages, really – before I have to face my 70th.

But my sister Jen is looking right into the eyes of her 60th. She will celebrate that big event on September 14, when her birthday actually falls. However, a couple of months ago, her daughter Maggie had a brainstorm. Really. The light bulb went on over her head like in a cartoon. Why wait until September to celebrate? A landmark birthday like that should be celebrated early and often. She began planning a surprise birthday party for her mother during the time that she and her family would be visiting from AZ.

The key word in this whole scenario is “surprise.” You see, Jen is just short of being psychic. Let’s just call her intuitive. Extremely intuitive. I don’t think she has been surprised about anything in 40 years. For this reason, we were all sneaky to the point of being paranoid with the planning of this event. Not a word to Austin and Lilly. No text messages, lest Jen accidentally spies one.

Perhaps it was the fact that it was July 8 and not September 14, because why would anyone be thinking surprise birthday party in the middle of summer when you’re birthday’s not until – as Nat King Cole would say — the autumn leaves drift by the window?

Using a complicated plan that involved Maggie’s husband Mark claiming a friend of his was in town and this alleged friend wanted to meet Mark’s wife and children, they were able to get Jen to come along by promising dinner at a favorite restaurant across the street from the actual party site following this introductory meeting. The plan was full of holes, and yet, it worked. The look on Jen’s face when she walked into the restaurant only to see friends and family pop out with masks made out of a frighteningly surreal Jen-Baby Heads was priceless……

It took Jen only a few moments to get a handle on what was happening to her. As for her family, Mark and BJ were relieved to be free from their responsibilities, Maggie was just short of throwing up from nervousness, Austin was mortified (as only a 6-year-old boy can be) to have everyone staring at him, and Lilly, well, she was just happy to have a reason to party…..

Our stepmother Shirley was one of those present for Jen’s surprise party.

The party was held at Los Tarascos Restaurant in downtown Fort Collins, where the staff couldn’t have been nicer. They didn’t even tear up that much when glitter was sprinkled onto the bar. Really, their sobs were barely audible. Following a delicious taco bar, it was time for cake. Or, cakes, really. A lemon raspberry bundt cake and a double chocolate bundt cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes. As we were putting out the cakes, Maggie said to me, “Mom says she doesn’t want anyone to sing happy birthday. What do you think?”

Here’s what I thought, and Lilly too…..

As poet Dylan Thomas suggests, we won’t let Jen go gentle into that good night. It’s only July. We still have a few more months of celebrating her 60th!