It’s What it’s All About
by Kelvin Wade
Last December, my girlfriend Cathi’s sister Lori sent me a message on Facebook asking if I thought it would be a good idea if she and her husband Dan flew out from Maui and surprised Cathi for her birthday in March. I told her that, number one, Cathi hates surprises; number two, she would be angry that I lied to her for months and number three, let’s do it!
From there the surprise grew to include Cathi’s other sister, Beth and her husband Brian, from Southern California and Cathi’s sister Robin and her husband, Bill, and two kids, Michael,21, and Sarah, 18, from Aptos. Cathi’s daughter Sheryl and her two children, Lauryn, 14, and Kawika, 6, rounded out the surprise participants.
Cathi hadn’t seen her sisters in probably six years.
The target date was Saturday, March 26, at 6 p.m. at Cattlemen’s steakhouse in Roseville, California. I made the reservation for 15 people, erroneously believing that Lori and Dan were bringing their two kids.
At one point Lori and Dan, who would be flying in the previous Thursday, wanted to surprise Cathi at work the Friday before the dinner at Cattlemen’s.
Likewise, Beth and Brian wanted to come by that Friday evening and surprise Cathi by pretending to be a pizza delivery person.
I understood their eagerness but I was responsible for nixing these pre-surprise surprises. How do you have a surprise dinner if you’ve already revealed the surprise? That would be like watching the Sixth Sense with the knowledge that Bruce Willis’ character is dead at the beginning of the movie. (And if you’re mad at me for spoiling that, don’t wait 12 years to see movies!).
The week before the surprise I told Cathi I’d made a reservation for us at Cattlemen’s Saturday night.
“Cattlemen’s doesn’t take reservations for two. Who else is going?” she said.
Gulp. Oops, did I just blow it?
“Well, they did! We’re on for 6 o’clock Saturday night.”
On the Friday morning before the surprise, Cathi’s daughter Sheryl and I met Lori and Dan at a restaurant for breakfast. It felt so awesome having a sneaky breakfast with Cathi’s relatives and her being none the wiser.
The next day, it rained so hard I contemplated starting an ark. Cathi came out of the bedroom and said, “It’s storming. Let’s not go out tonight. I don’t feel like going out in the rain.”
“It’ll be fine.” We were going to the restaurant even if we had to paddle.
The rain stopped a bit later and we were on the road. While she drove I was busy texting Cathi’s daughter making sure everyone was at the restaurant. Sheryl texted back that they were in the bar. The table wasn’t ready. Meanwhile, we’re flying down the freeway getting closer and closer.
Cathi let me off in front of the restaurant and went to park. That gave me a few more moments to text Sheryl and ask if they were ready. She sent back one word: “Yup.”
Cathi and I walked in and I told the greeter that we had a reservation for Wade. She looked down and then back up and said, “Okay, Wade party of two.” Brilliant. They played along just as we’d planned. I led Cathi by the hand through the busy restaurant to a back room.
There was a long table of people sitting holding menus up obscuring their faces. They dropped the menus and yelled, “Surprise!” Cathi’s eyes grew wide and her mouth fell open. Then she clamped a hand over her mouth and started to cry. She took her time hugging every person there.
It’s times like this that you get smacked in the face with a cosmic reminder. This is what it’s about. It’s not about money, politics, degrees, your job, social status or possessions. It’s not the million and one petty things that we worry about. It’s not about the molehill enlarged mountains we erect day by day.
It’s about family and relationships. It’s about the people we love and care about and those who love and care about us.
One more thing: Cathi no longer hates surprises.