I’ve secretly been hiding in Minnesota for the past six days. I departed Heathrow on Tuesday morning, landed at JFK in New York, taxi’d to LaGuardia (during my six-and-a-half-hour layover), and finally landed in Minneapolis some 20 odd hours later.
It was a personal record as far as long travel days go but it was all worth it when I saw the look on my Dad’s face when he walked into the pub and saw 45 of his friends, coworkers and family members standing there, waiting to surprise him on his 60th birthday.
The planning for this party began during my trip to Minnesota two months earlier. My siblings, sibling in-laws and I started chatting about what we were going to do for Dave’s Big 6-0 party and someone suggested a surprise party. This was a great but daunting idea.
Where do we host the party? How do we get contact information for the invite list? How do we con Dave into getting to the venue without speculation? How do we keep this party a secret for the next 60 days? Will I be able to find flights as my return flight to London will be a few days before the London 2012 opening ceremony? How will we keep me hidden in Minnesota? Will I be hungover?
We tossed around several ideas on how to get Dave to the pub and after many hours of thought and consideration, we agreed that we would create a fake buy one, get one free entrée coupon for the pub and use this to lure him to Downtown Minneapolis, a place he never goes.
We were even smart enough to include a dress code so Dave would be properly dressed for a family photo that we ultimately failed to take though I was snapped with the Davenator.
The day of the party, Ryan (brother), Megan (sister-in-law), and I arrived at the pub to set up the party room about an hour before the guests were scheduled to arrive. Meanwhile, Tessa (sister) and her then-husband, Luke, were waiting for my parents to arrive at their house because they were scheduled to carpool to the pub. In other words, we needed Tessa and Luke to text us with their whereabouts so we could get the guests ready for the big reveal.
Tessa believes she had the hardest job of the day and I agree. It would have been pretty nerve-racking to walk into Gluek’s not knowing what to expect with the private room, yet having to guide my Dad into the room first.
The party was a huge success! My Dad was completely surprised and when asked if he had any clue, he said, “No. I had no idea. Especially since we had that coupon thingy”. Coupon thingies. They work all the time.
He even shed a couple of tears, like during his “thank you/pre-candle extinguish” speech.
Now that my Dad has had time to reflect on the past couple of months, he’s started to point out things that seemed odd at the time but that always had a logical explanation.
For example, while in Minnesota that week, I published a couple of blog posts at 10pm CST which is 4am London time. My Dad once mentioned to my Mom that the timing of the posts was odd and my Mom responded, “Well, you know she never sleeps”. Insomnia. It works every time.
Another example was when my parents arrived at Tessa’s house and Luke was wearing jeans and Luke’s brother was wearing shorts. Aware of the dress code (as he didn’t like it), my Dad said that he wondered how Luke and his brother were going to get into the pub when the pub had a “dress code” and the dress code printed on the coupon thingy stated no jeans or shorts. My Dad also said that as they walked further and further toward the back of the restaurant (to the private room he didn’t know existed), he thought that they were being seated at the back of the restaurant because Luke and his brother had not adhered to the dress code.
The party was fun and it was great to see my Dad interact with so many different people from his past, some of which he hasn’t seen in years.