May, 2011. I packed as much as I could into my Dodge Caliber, and left Kalamazoo on my way to begin a brand new life in Oklahoma City. Though I have very much wanted to return to see my family and friends, I haven’t been back to my beloved hometown since that day. It was with great pleasure, then, that I began to plan my return to Kzoo, and centered the visit around the celebration of my mother’s long-overdue retirement.
After 30 years with Flowserve (originally known as Durametallic), mom was finally going to retire. What better gift could I give her, than a surprise visit from her only son? Muwah ha ha haaaaaa.
The first person I enlisted to help me was obvious: dad. The master of selfless gift-giving. The man who taught me to do for others without wondering what’s in it for me. Contrary to what one of my colleagues thought, I was certain he would keep my secret and not tell mom I was coming. The second person was Cheryl Petersen. (I sincerely hope I spelled her name right) Cheryl shared a cubicle with mom for many years, shared our family’s love of University of Michigan, and my love of the tv show, “Lost.” Not only was she able to fill me in on the date, time, and location of the retirement party, she was also the one to get me in the key-controlled facility, and hook me up with a visitor’s pass.
For months I planned my scheme. Never once did I doubt that mom had no clue. Every time I spoke with her on the phone, and referenced her impending retirement, she lamented that I wouldn’t be able to be there. Part of me felt bad for her sadness, but I knew it would be more than balanced out by the joy when the surprise was sprung.
I never doubted my plan would succeed. That is, until the day before the big day. I was on the road from Louisville, KY to Kzoo (I’ll explain that later), and decided to call mom at work to see how she was doing on her second-to-last day. In the course of making small talk, she asked me about the tricky weather I was having. In Oklahoma City. Uh oh. I was hundreds of miles away from OKC, and had ZERO idea what the weather was like. So I tap danced around the topic, and moved on. *whew*
Then she asked, out of the clear blue, “Since you’re in sales, what happens when you take time off? Does someone do it for you? And what about your email?”
Uh oh. Mom *never* sends email to me at work. Was today the first day? Did she just get my Out Of Office message stating I was on vacation? Was she on to me? For the first time since I hatched my little plan, doubt had crept in.
I rolled into Michigan on a Thursday around 3:30 in the afternoon. On my way through Three Rivers, I stopped in to see my friend, Kristyn Meyer, and her husband. The visit was short since they were getting ready to leave on a trip of their own I then made a dash to pop in on friend, Becca, where she works. It was great to see her after so long.
Next was a special surprise. I quickly zipped across town to Portage, MI to see dear friend, Sara, before she left work. (for those who may have missed an earlier blog post which explained “The Enrique Effect,” Sara is the person who came up with the name for my little pay-it-forward project) Without going into detail, I really wanted to do something to make her smile. Mission accomplished. I enjoy making my friends cry for good reasons.
Sadly, not everything went as planned during my trip. Before the first day was done, I had four people cancel plans with me. So, I took the opportunity to take a quick nap at the hotel. Thankfully, one of the people who didn’t cancel was still able to come visit. Angel, the last person to see me when I left Kalamazoo last year, was able to come visit me for a while upon my return. We sat by the hotel pool, drank mystery drinks made up by the bartender, and talked for hours. But, as is often the case, the time went too quickly. She had to go, and I needed to get to bed.
Day 1 had come to a close. While it was fun seeing and catching up with old friends, the best was yet to come. Day 2 meant the big surprise at mom’s retirement party. Oh yes, it was sure to be epic.