Sunday, March 17, 2013

John's 70th Birthday Party Surprise

John's sons have been planning John's 70th birthday party for months. I got the invitation and was truly mum on the subject, all of us vowing secrecy. L'Notte Restaurant on Dunbar and 16th was the location for the festivities. I was amazed to arrive, finding the restaurant full and thinking there must be some other room. No, these were all John's friends arrived early and looking just like normal people at a restaurant.
Luke and Jesse arrived with balloons and the restaurant instantly took on new meaning. It was then that this 'flash mob' appeared no longer separate and apart. Everyone was chatting with everyone in expectation.
Luke announced that John was a bout to arrive. The restaurant hushed. The pianist and singer stopped. Management stood poised.
And there was John, shocked and astonished, definitely at a loss for words as he entered the restaurant which broke lose in a very loud "Happy birthday, John!" All the music that night was enhanced by John's friend, a symphony violinist turned fiddler for the occasion. Never has a better 'For he's a jolly good fellow!" been played on strings.
Then a very fine dinner was served and we all began to meet each other by asking the critical question, "How do you know, John?"
I sat next to a woman who new John through is wife Pru, she'd met, 15 years  before, as I knew Pru through John, who I'd met 15 years before. But next to me sat a UBC lab partner of John's from his undergraduate days. Across from me sat a psychiatrist who'd known John from when he'd started the psychoanalytic psychotherapy group at UBC bringing up an analyst from Seattle for teaching and consultation. I looked across the room and saw several psychiatrists I knew who were our colleagues and then there were the family friends and friends of John's from his neighbourhood and many I simply didn't know.
"How did you know who to invite?" I asked Luke and Jesse later. "We stole his rollodex and got help from Mom".
 It was a truly wonderful birthday party. Such laughter and good will. John was radiant.
I could hardly hear, the conversations so loud. I felt a bit like an old man at a rock concert. There was that much laughter and chatter and in the background the pianist played the occasional Irish tune in honor of St. Patrick's day. John's more a St. Francis man.  He was moved with the revolutionary choice of a Pope from the Americas. John's compassion is so intrinsic to his being.
All these people going back 50 years showed up to love him. All that was missing was a son who couldn't get gacsk from China, his sister in Australia and all those other aussie friends of childhood he goes off to visit whenever he can face the long flight down under.
Happy Birthday, John!

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