And finally, part three...and a promise to myself to make my posts simpler from now on!
Sunday, September 17
A few years ago, my Dad's doctors told him he had about a year left to live. In theory, they weren't wrong: people diagnosed with in-transit metastatic melanoma usually don't. It's a miracle, his doctors say, that he is alive. Thus, the opportunity to celebrate his 60th birthday with him, and not in remembrance of him, was a miracle too.
My Aunt, Dad's sister and a fabulous cook and entertainer, graciously hosted the party with her husband at their house. Almost everyone I invited was able to attend, from family, family friends, elementary school friends, and former co-workers my dad hadn't seen in over a decade.
That morning I nervously got ready, smiling as I slipped on the Yankees t-shirt I'd bought for the party. Though Dad grew up in Charleston, he's been a Yankees fan since he was a kid, so my Aunt I decided to theme the surprise party around his team. The invites had the Yankees logo on them, and there were Cracker Jacks, popcorn, Dad's favorite snack, almonds, and even almond French toast, plus his favorite NYC cheesecake from Carnegie Deli at the party.
Dad's actual birthday wasn't for a few more weeks, so turning 60 wasn't at the top of his mind yet. Since he thought I'd come into town just for my high school reunion and believed we were going to my Aunt's house for a 16th birthday brunch for my cousin, he wasn't suspicious of the cars spilling out of the driveway.
Though he's never had a heart problem, I was secretly worried that if my Aunt and I actually pulled the surprise off we might give Dad a heart attack. Later she confided that she'd been worried too. Thankfully there was no need to worry, but from the moment we walked in the door and he registered what was really happening, to a few days later when he finished opening his cards and gifts, Dad was in a state of elated shock and disbelief. Thankfully, it was a wonderful, happy kind of shock, unlike the many ups and downs he's endured since he was diagnosed.
Along with the toasts and an "Alan Coleman fashion show" featuring my Dad's limited wardrobe (baseball hats, sneakers, jeans and old t-shirts), one of the best parts of the party was a photo my Aunt blew up and framed that featured my dad as a young, begloved boxer. It turned out that his until that day unidentified teenage opponent was also at the party!
I don't know how we'll top that afternoon when it comes time to celebrate Dad's 70th birthday, but given the chance, I'm sure we will.
Melanoma is one of the cancers that doctors know the least about, and the treatments for it are mostly experimental. For more information, you can visit Memorial Sloan-Kettering's Web site.