My father-in-law, Clarence just celebrated his 90th birthday. It was a delightful party. The grandkids gathered. Well, OK, 4 out of 6 aint bad since the other two were in Nashville. It’s really quite an adjustment for me. My kids lived with me for 20 years or more and then… they left. I know it’s how it’s suppose to be done but when David and I got married we moved across town not across the country. Across town is great. Across the country not so great.
But anyways… I digress. Clarence had a birthday party. There were party plates and napkins and there was a small gathering of family members… a total of 8 which for Clarence is quite a crowd. Meagan made his favorite cake – German chocolate. YUMMM.
So… the moment arrived where we all gathered around the cake and sang “happy Birthday” with the typical Payne-family harmony. Then Clarence, thoroughly reveling in the moment stood up and leaned forward over the cake to blow out the candles.
Now.. just so you know, we did NOT put 90 candles on the cake. The cake was not big enough to hold that many candles. Meagan put just two candles on the cake… the numbers 9 and 0. So back to the moment we all wait for at every birthday party; blowing out the candles.
Clarence took as big a breath as any 90 year old can and leaning over the cake blew as hard as he could. One of the candles went out but I’m not sure whether it was the rush of air or the loud sputtering spray of spit that put it out. But it was definitely out. Everyone in the room gasped just a little. I think it was because of the spit covered caked but it could have been because we realized that there was still a candle burning brightly and before we could help him with that Clarence took another quick breath and gave a hearty blow. VICTORY! The second candle went out with another mixture of wind and spit. We cheered and we laughed and then the most amazing thing happened:
Everyone, young and old – even the germaphobes in the group (you know who you are) sat down with Clarence and ATE the cake. No one asked for a spit-free piece. No mention was ever made of the added ingredient. It could have been the coconut frosting. It could have been the homemade chocolate cake with coconut filling. I would like to think it was love and respect for Clarence. Whatever was the reason for the unanimous ingestion of cake I was proud of a family that put honoring and celebrating the oldest among us before our fear of his spit.
It tasted great. Thank you Meagan! Clarence felt loved. I felt the pride parents feel when their kids show up and do the right thing.
I also felt a moment of grief. It’s been 7 years since David died and it was just so wrong that he wasn’t there to celebrate with his dad. But though David is not here his family clearly lives on – strong and filled with love. Grief and love sprinkled the day…. and spit.