editors note: in case you haven't already guessed, in my family sarcasm is a true art form.
Sitting in today as guest blogger is Lacey’s Dad, Ozzie. Would that make me a glogger? I asked Lacey if I could write this so I would have a chance to brag on her. This past Saturday was my 60th birthday, and Lacey was instrumental in arranging my best birthday ever!
You might wonder how it fell to Lacey to arrange my birthday. I couldn’t exactly do it, and her mom / my wife Desire’ was worn out from organizing an extravaganza weekend for her parent’s 60th anniversary at the end of July. She was lamenting to Lacey that she was going to have to put together something for me, too, when Lacey said “Mom, put in my hands.” And she did.
Now, I knew that something was being arranged, but I was kept in the dark about what it was. This past Wednesday, I received by e-mail a packing list and instructions to be ready to be picked up at 9:30 Thursday morning. At the appointed time Desire’s parents Pete and Marge showed up, and we loaded our luggage and golf clubs into their van. I was permitted to drive, but only given directions one waypoint at a time. If you know Lacey, you know that she always has a plan, and she got that gene from me. So, you can imagine how out of sorts I was to be on a need-to-know basis. T o make a long trip short, we arrived in Pigeon Forge TN a little before 3pm. We stopped at a welcome center, and it was suggested that I pick up some info on golf courses, indicating to me that no prior arrangements had been made for golf – what I was anticipating to be a highlight of this trip. Swell!
I found myself sitting in the parking lot at Cabins USA while Desire’ checked in for our accommodations. . If you know Pigeon Forge, it is a sprawl of t-shirt shops, miniature golf courses, fast food and buffet restaurants, go-kart tracks, and other cheesy attractions. It looks like a tornado picked up all the worst of Americana and dumped it in a jumble in the Great Smoky Mountains. It was described at various times on our trip as “Myrtle Beach on Meth in the Mountains”, “Redneck Vegas”, “a Cornucopia of Crapola”, and some unflattering names too. Across the street from where I sat was a flashing sign proclaiming “Memories, presenting Elvis& Friends; the ultimate Legends Show.” I have always wondered about performers for whom impersonating Elvis is the acme of their career. What about those whose claim to fame is impersonating his friends?
In this family we’ve learned about the five stages of grief from our resident psychologist - Ryan. I was going through my own five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, whining, and pouting. My mind raced to all the exciting possibilities: sitting around our room in the heart of Pigeon Forge with my in-laws; cruising the strip; checking out the tattoo parlors; eating at MO’s All-You-Can-Eat Buffet (the initials apparently stand for Morbidly Obese). Maybe if I was lucky we could squeeze in 216 or so holes of golf – the kind with dinosaurs, windmills, pirates, and/or farm animals.
My attitude did a 180 when we arrived at our accommodations; a cabin nestled in the trees high on a ridge overlooking the Smokies. It had 3 levels, each with a living area and two bedrooms with private baths. It had a hot tub, pool table, air hockey, and Foosball. Way to go Lacey!
What made this, in all truth, my best birthday ever was spending it with the people I love most in this world (minus my mom and sister). Lacey and Ryan, Jake, Ainsley, and Reid arrived Thursday evening, and Matt and Allie shortly thereafter. We ate drank and were merry. Jake and Ainsley were in the hot tub 2-3 times each day, butt naked. We played pool with the kids– actually a version without cue sticks which was more like soccer and team handball. We watched the raccoon raid our trashcan each night. Desire’ compressed 60 years of being me into a wonderful video which made me cry tears of joy.
Since I have given Pigeon Forge the worst trashing since Lacey’s went off on Croc’s here in her blog, I need to be fair and mention that we did enjoy some go-karting, golf with the kids at Pigs Can Fly, and a nice hike complete with a snake across our path and a black bear sighting.
A milestone birthday like your 60th can be a catalyst for retrospection and introspection, and is also a good time for looking forward. I have been asking myself what I want my next 10-15-20 years to look like. I don’t want to be presumptuous, since in the next 15 minutes I could become deathly ill or get zapped by a UPS truck on its daily run to Lacey’s house. I put together a bucket list, complete with some of the typical items: travel to the eastern Med, Russia, the Baltic; get a tattoo; get tattoo removed; etc. But, if God does grant me further years, what I really want to accomplish is summed up by a psalm I read recently in my quiet time: “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.” (Psalm 71:18) The Lord has done so much in my life. I have experienced the joy of seeing my own children walk in the truth. Now it’s time for the grands.
I have to go now so I can start planning my own 80th birthday party. It will probably involve a cruise ship with 6 or so adjoining verandah cabins. Ainsley and Matt & Allie’s daughter will share one with Jake’s fiancée, with Reid and Jake and little Whit in another. Won’t that be grand?