Thursday, April 9, 2009

On Good Surprises

As promised, here’s the second of the two posts I mentioned last night. I am hoping to crank out one more tomorrow night (a new one I’ve been composing in my head), but we’ll see how many last-minute things I have left to accomplish before we leave at the crack of dawn on Saturday. In the meantime…

There are very few true surprises in life, and most of them are not even remotely pleasant. So it was nice when I received one recently. Before then, it had been five years and two days since I had received my last truly pleasant one. My wife and I were one of those increasingly rare couples who chose to wait to find out our baby’s gender until birth. So after a series of unpleasant surprises over a four day period, it was a nice change to hear the doctor announce “It’s a girl!” and to finally know who our baby was.

My recent surprise was also directly related to that special girl. It was two days after her fifth birthday and 22 hours before the start of her party when our doorbell rang. Great, I thought, that’s going to be a certain local organization I choose not to financially support asking for money. Never in a million years would I have dreamed it would be my parents! Now for some people, having their parents show up unexpectedly on their doorstep while they are busy trying to clean the entire house in preparation for a special birthday party would not be a happy surprise at all. But for me they were a welcome sight. I had been grieving much more intensely the last four or five weeks, as had my daughter, and they had sensed that during our phone conversations. My mom said they had actually been contemplating doing this since before Christmas, but that their plans had only been solidified the previous week. What made their surprise even more special is that my stepdad was under a strict deadline at work and his boss actually gave him an extension so that they could drive 800 miles to spend the weekend celebrating my daughter’s special day. Their selflessness was nothing short of amazing.

I’m used to parenting alone. I’m used to making sure that my daughter gets to preschool and gymnastics on time. I’m used to planning fun experiences for us to enjoy together. I’m used to balancing the mundane tasks like housework and mowing the lawn with playtime and family movie nights. It’s been two years and I’ve gotten into a pretty good routine of doing it all. Alone. I have on occasion asked for help. I have also accepted help when it has been offered by friends in the area. I have never once expected anyone to help me. This is my new lot in life, and I am willing to do the best I possibly can with it.

That’s what truly made this surprise so special. My parents didn’t have to take time out of their busy schedules to come. They didn’t have to ask for help at work so that they could be a part of their granddaughter’s birthday celebration. They didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night, drive thirteen hours, and spend the next six helping me finish getting ready for the party. They did it because they wanted to. They did it because they saw a need. They did it because they cared. They were able to see beyond their own noses and do something that was truly extraordinary in my eyes at a time when I needed it most, even though I tried not to let on that I did.

So here’s to good surprises. May they find us more often that the bad ones.


  1. Thanks for finding me. You blog is very helpful because of reading so many people who are experiencing a lose of a spouse. I never there was so many young widow/ers.

  2. I love when your friends and family know things without having to ask.

  3. Learning to Live - nor did I. While it's not the kind of club I ever aspired to join, it's still good to know that I'm not completely alone in this.

    Star - as do I.