Honor & birthdays

Dad’s birthday was Saturday – he’s 94. I remember a kid at school when I was volunteering telling me, very seriously, “My grandfather is 90. And he’s not even dead or anything.” Neither is Dad, and though he is sometimes very lame, his thoughts are still nimble, and if you all would just listen to us, you would have half the world’s problems solved.

My mother used to make very sure we untangled his birthday from the skein of holidays and celebrated it separately, since he had been one of those “this is for both your birthday and for Christmas” kids. Which is fair. However when a guy is 94 and you racked your brains to come up with Christmas gifts, it can leave you at loose ends for a birthday on December 29. So sometimes I get his birthday gift in the summer, which I did this year, or at least I started on it.

It was after my friend Karin had been here with her husband. Karin and I had reconnected on a social medium earlier, and they were coming to Vermont and Maine to visit family. We met at Dad’s, and though we haven’t seen each other for 40 some odd (very odd, some of them!) years, we soon found our groove. We started with maps and pictures, naturally. One series of photos was of her and a group of friends making a presentation of a red, white, and blue quilt to her brother Tim to honor him for his military service over the years. She is a quilter connected with “Quilts of Valor” and was very positive about the program. When we went to lunch, she said, “You should get one for your Dad. Check them out online. There are groups in each state.” So soon after Karin and Steve had headed back to South Carolina, I did that.

The Vermont group is pretty small, as befits us. I put in a request. They asked for any specific requirements and I said that maybe high contrast would be good, so he could actually enjoy looking at it. Then I forgot about it, until around the first of December when a lady called me – she was going to meet with the Vermont group and had a quilt she thought would be good in the “high contrast” category. She asked if I had a date in mind for the presentation, and the first thing I could think of was his birthday. Some people make a big community thing of these presentations, but I wanted it to be more laid back,

Then toward the end of the month a guy called and we got the time arranged, so I notified my brothers and kids, and then called Dad and told him to be sure to be around at that time on his birthday. Both the guys were working and my daughters were having exams or being out of town – it is really hard to plan an event involving several other people when you are on the phone and you don’t know who is doing what! Planning events is not even on my short list of skills, but we pulled it off. I made a cake, a grandson took pictures, we didn’t have enough chairs, my brothers were late, but it was fine. Turns out the guy who delivered came all the way from Ferrisburg, but he and Dad knew each other anyway. The brief dedication included a poem that made us tear up. Then we ate cake.

These people are fantastic. If you have a favorite veterans, I encourage you to check them out. Just search “Quilts of Valor.” Your honoree doesn’t have to be 94 or wounded or any particular branch of service. They can also use your skills, if you want to volunteer. They make sure every vet is special. Which they are. Happy Birthday, Dad!

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