How Do You Jew An educational, informational, conversational blog and (someday) podcast about Judaism, Jewish practices, customs, and rituals, Israel, and whatever else we decide to talk about.

January 1, 2010

Starting the new year with a surprise

Filed under: Family,fun,Good News,Health,life cycle,mitzvot,travel — Tags: — howdoyoujew @ 22:27

Now that the surprise has been sprung, I can reveal the details and dispense with the mystery.

This morning I posted a new year’s greeting on Facebook from “an undisclosed location,” predictably prompting some of my friends to make veiled (or not-so-veiled) Dick Cheney jokes, which is what I expected. I couldn’t be more specific, because I was on my way to spring a terrific surprise on some very special people, courtesy of another very special person (I’m surrounded by very special people, can you tell?). Here’s the deal:

My kids have an extra set of grandparents – Grammy Phyllis and Papa Joel – due to the successful transplant of my bone marrow into Phyllis’s leukemia-racked body four years ago. Grammy has been cancer free ever since, and is therefore able to help her husband of nearly 50 years, Joel, celebrate his 70th birthday this weekend. They are, obviously, very special people in our lives.

We were of course invited to the birthday party, but the cost to travel to Florida was so prohibitive as to prevent any of us, even I alone, from attending. Enter the other very special person, our friend Brett. I referred to Joel’s birthday in passing in a conversation with Brett a couple of weeks ago, and before I knew what was happening, he presented me with a ticket to fly to Florida and attend the festivities.

At this point, I realized that it would be way more fun to show up unannounced than to tell Phyllis and Joel I was coming, so I initiated a conspiratorial plot worthy of the best spy novel (OK, maybe worthy of a mediocre spy novel, punctuated by bursts of slapstick and silliness, near-miss almost-spoilers, and other elements only found in a Jewish story). I recruited Grammy & Papa’s son Craig, who in turn enlisted the help of Joel’s brother and sister-in-law. Using a combination of HUMINT (pestering Joel & Phyllis for the name of the restaurant they were all going to dinner at tonight) and SIGINT (text messages), we were able to keep them completely in the dark about my arrival, and the reveal was, as the kids say these days, choice. (Do the kids still say that? It’s a new year, who knows?)

I arrived at the restaurant moments after they sat down, walked up to the table unobserved, and dropped the code phrase, “Do you think you have room for one more?” with devastating effect. They both turned toward me, Phyllis’s jaw dropped (and stayed agape for quite a while), and Joel, recovering rather quickly, threw his arms in the air and got up to hug me. The relatives at the table (all in on the surprise, remember) broke out into cheers and laughter, with Joel’s brother Warren dutifully recording the moment for posterity with a digital camera. (There may or may not have been a reshoot of The Hug at one point, but historians will have to examine the records to determine if anything looks manufactured.)

The rest of dinner was a blur of laughter and conversations of acquaintance (I’d never met Joel’s siblings or Warren’s wife Patti before, so there was a bit of “getting to know you” to get through, made easier by Warren’s interrogatory ways). We then took over Craig’s basement entertainment lounge to watch the first half of the Sugar Bowl, which, with a room full of rabid Gator fans, was a whole lot of fun (final score, Florida 51, Cincinnati 17. Ouch).

Tomorrow night is the big party; I’ll spend the day getting to know Craig and his family, who opened their home to me sight unseen, and hanging out with Grammy and Papa to make my presence as real as possible for the short time I’m here. I return to San Diego on Sunday, and go back to work and the usual routine on Tuesday after a two-week break.

Pulling this off has been incredibly fun. May the rest of the year be as enjoyable and filled with reasons to celebrate.

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