On the occasion of his 75th birthday, my friend Fred threw a party. A real wingding.
I wish you could’ve been there.
There was all the usual party fare – food, drink, birthday cake, and for once, thank you, enough chairs to go around. (People of a certain age don’t take standing up lying down.)
There was also real music by a real live band. And a special guest who came all the way from Vegas to Monterey, Calif., to sing at the party just because she adores Fred. Who doesn’t?
What? No, it wasn’t me. Yes, I adore Fred. And yes, I came from Vegas (with my husband) and would gladly have sung if invited to do so, but nobody bothered to ask me.
Ditto for the flamenco dancing. A troupe of stunning women, including Nancy, Fred’s beautiful, long-suffering wife, flamencoed their hearts out in honor of the guest of honor.
Fred sat in front through the entire performance, clapping like a trained seal and grinning like a mule eating briars.
Actually, all of the other men did that, too. And most of the women. I was tempted to join the dancers. But apparently, flamenco dancing requires practice. And dedication. Not to mention special shoes and some degree of coordination.
Anyhow. It was a great party. There were two things I liked best. First, the guest of honor.
Everybody should have a friend like Fred. For years, he and my husband and I worked together in a newsroom.
Fred was an editor – the smart kind who didn’t change a word of my copy unless it made me look better. He was passionate about the job. But more than the work, he cared most of all about the people he worked with.
He had a gift for making hard things easier and unfun things more fun. With his help, good stories got better. And if I felt like crying, Fred made me laugh or gave me a shoulder to cry on. When he retired, he left the newsroom, but kept the gift.
Fred and my husband have been music buddies for years. My husband plays bass. Fred plays percussion – congas or tambourines or even a TV tray. I once watched them play in a campground under a tarp in the pouring rain. And I’ve never seen them look happier.
Good friends share a lot of good stories. I could tell “Fred stories” until the cows come home. But I’ll just say this: The second best thing about his party was the guest list.
Seriously. What good is a party without great guests? Fred had wisely invited not just former coworkers, but family and friends from all sorts of lovely, overlapping circles.
For me, it was such a pleasure to see faces and hug necks and have real conversations with people I had not seen in ages:
• The pastor (and his wife) who had tied the knot for Fred and Nancy; for my son and his wife; and for my husband and me.
• A middle school English teacher much loved by my three children and their mother.
• Two friends I’d met under a tarp in the rain listening to my husband play music with Fred.
That was just a sample. There were a dozen or more others – friends I worked with for 20 years and hadn’t seen in the last 10, since I moved to Vegas. I had thought I might never see them again. But thanks to Fred, there they were. It was his party, but it was a gift to us all.
Celebrations bring us together to renew old ties and remember where we’ve been. Best of all, they remind us that we’re alive, and we are not alone.
If you want to have a party, do it soon. Don’t wait. Invite me.
I’m thinking I might host my own memorial service. Yes, while I’m still around to see who shows up. My children and grandchildren can say nice things about me. My husband and Fred can play music. Nancy and her flamenco friends can dance. You can bring the food.
It will be a real wingding.
Maybe I will sing.
Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.