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Sunday, December 17, 2006

You might already know that Mom turns 80 on her next birthday, which happens to be Tuesday. If you didn’t know that, you weren’t at the birthday brunch we gave her today. It was a surprise brunch, so if you weren’t invited, please blame us and not Mom. I’m sure she wishes you had been able to come and celebrate. We did the best we could.

Suzanne and John and I got there early to set up, but most of the work was done by the folks at the restaurant, which provided us a room to ourselves. (There were 16 or 17 of us, I believe.) Eric picked Mom up, not telling her where he was taking her. I think she thought they were headed somewhere out of town. By the time they got to the restaurant, all of the invited guests had arrived. We sang “Happy Birthday” to her as she walked in.

If she wasn’t surprised, then she hid it well. She was happy, though, to greet all of her friends (many of whom are even older than she is, believe it or not). She worked the room quite well, and I think she congratulated everyone on keeping the secret. These are people she sees all the time, and it must have been hard for them not to spill the beans.

Aiden and Kylie made their presence known, of course, and charmed everyone. When the two of them were hiding behind the lace curtains in the room, I caught Aiden’s eye. “Uncle Mike, I have to take a shower,” he said. Apparently the kind of curtain you can see through is a shower curtain. One of the presents Mom opened was a lint brush (a gag gift), which Aiden carried around the room and used to pound the walls, until he was advised against it. “I’m doing my job,” he told me.

After we had eaten and the tired children had left for their naps, we sat around the table talking. Mom told some of the stories from her childhood and beyond. Some of the stories are part of family myth and legend, but it seems every time she tells them they grow more vivid and real. Plus, of course, most of her friends hadn’t heard them before.

It was a wonderful, low-key outpouring of affection and respect for a life lived not only long but well. It was clear that Mom had touched people’s lives in ways that made them appreciate her, and made them want her to know that they did.

17 December 2006

"Surprise!" (Eric, Mom, Tammy and Aiden.) More photos here.

I had the honor of taking Mom home this afternoon and helping her carry the load of gifts up to her apartment. I lost track of how many times we went up and down in the elevator, but I was ready for my own nap. Getting up early enough for brunch isn’t something I usually schedule into my Sundays, but this time it was worth it. I came home and did some power relaxing for the rest of the day.

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President Bush is trying to sell his proposed increase of U.S. troops in Iraq as a short-term move that will lead to the kind of stabilization of the situation that his broken administration needs to see before withdrawal will be considered. Does anyone believe the words of a proven liar who is trying to save what’s left of his legacy at the expense of even more lives? Democrats who buy into this plan should be run out of office the same way the Republicans were last month. One person who doesn’t believe it (and who should know) is Colin Powell. Powell, who left the administration because Bush didn’t want to hear the voice of anyone who made sense, wants to know what the added troops’ mission would be, and whether it can be accomplished. This is the question that should have been asked before the first troops were sent to Iraq.

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One year ago: Hazy
"The game, by the way, was pretty much a replay of last week’s fiasco (which was only a fiasco from the perspective of a basketball purist, and if you’re one of those you’re better off not watching six-year-olds play)."

Two years ago: Atonal
"I’m glad I didn’t believe it, because that would have made me too much like the Boss himself. There’s a place I just don’t want to go."

Three years ago: Prep Time
"I take these things seriously, and I won't relax until I'm done. And I won't be done until the truck has come and gone."

Four years ago: Slipping Around
"I guess I don't fit the profile. Maybe it's the haircut."

Five years ago: Altered Course
"I can live with that, as long as no one calls me on it. We're in a war, you know."

Six years ago: Higher and Drier
"I was slightly dismayed to discover that I had to do my own grading."

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