The Big Trip Home, Day 2 – The Epic Surprise

Finally, the big day arrived.

After months of planning, I was home at last, and about to give mom the biggest surprise ever.

Having coordinated ahead of time with mom’s colleague, Cheryl, I arrived at Flowserve at noon knowing mom and dad would already be upstairs at the party.  Cheryl got me a visitor’s badge, I signed in, and we went upstairs.  Video camera in hand, we arrived at the conference room as mom and dad were going through the buffet line.  I hid outside the door and traded hugs with a few of mom’s coworkers whom I’ve known for years, and got to meet several others for the first time.

Suddenly, three of the people in the group with whom I was talking moved to block the door, saying “NO!  You can’t come out here right now,” as a fourth individual motioned for me to hide.  I quickly ducked into a coat rack and peeked out to see what was going on.  Dad was trying to leave the conference room, and the group was trying to prevent him from spotting me.  What the well-meaning bunch didn’t know is dad was in on the surprise, and was on his way to the lobby to look for me.  Having made his way back inside to join mom, I climbed out of the coat rack and thanked everyone for the heads-up.

I gave my video camera to another of mom’s colleagues, Kim, and prepared to make my entrance.  Mom and dad had just sat down, joined by mom’s long-time friend, Maureen (who goes by the nickname “Marty”).  The three of them were talking as I approached from behind them.  As I crept up, Marty said to mom “You gotta watch out for that guy behind you.”

Mom kept talking.

I placed my hand on her shoulder just as Marty repeated, “Yeah, but you gotta keep an eye on that guy behind you.”

Slowly mom turned.  When she saw me…well…words can’t describe, but I’ll try.  Best I can do is to say it was shock perhaps mixed with disbelief, then happiness mixed with disbelief, followed by a desire to catch her breath.

“It’s a good thing I was sitting down!”

In addition to Kim using my video camera, there were others taking pics and I’ll post those when I get copies.  In the mean time, here are a few from my digital camera:

It was a great party, and it was fun to see so many people turn out to say goodbye to and show appreciation for mom’s work over the past 30 years.  Of particular note was the speech given by her boss, which included a review of her application from 30 years ago.  By the end, there were several who were misty-eyed.  After lots of fun, some food, and of course some cake, we helped mom gather up the last of her things from her cubicle.

Before I would meet mom and dad back at their house for dinner, I had an annual  afternoon date to keep.

Bell’s Brewery is a micro-brewery which calls Kalamazoo its home.  They have a summer seasonal wheat ale called “Oberon.”  Over the years it has gained a huge following, which has made its annual release date a mini holiday.  By pure coincidence, my Kzoo visit overlapped the week of that release date.

Two years ago, my dear friend, Jennifer VanOosterhout (friends call her “VanO”), and I have had our first Oberon of the year together.  Now, it turns out VanO couldn’t wait for my arrival to have her first (and I can’t blame her for that one bit), but she was able to meet me at Shakespeare’s Bar as I had my first, which was also my first Bell’s beer of ANY kind since I left town last year.  For as much as I missed Oberon, I missed VanO even more.  So it was a treat to be able to sit down and talk with her.  Friends for a while now, we’ve always been able to talk about everything and anything.  My only regret was that it had to end.  Until next year, VanO…  Cheers!

I needed to head back to the hotel to get ready for dinner with my parents, but first I popped in at The Bureau to say hello to Carl Brown and Bill Playford.  Just two of the people helping put and keep Kalamazoo on the social media cutting edge, these guys are nothing short of amazing.  It turns out they also happen to be familiar with OKC, so it was fun to be able to trade stories.

Dinner with mom and dad was great.  The best part for me was mom repeatedly saying she couldn’t believe I was there.  Much like the rest of the day, however, it went too quickly.  We made plans to meet for dinner again on Sunday, and said goodnight.

I needed to get back to the hotel to get some rest.  The weekend was going to be full.

(to be continued…)

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