Donna’s birthday party

I wept, several times.

I wept when I saw Sarah and Harvey, Gladys’s grown up children.

The last regret she told me just before she passed in 1984 was that she wouldn’t be here as Sarah and Harvey grew up.

But Sarah, now a nurse in intensive care with children of her own, looked so much like her mother, and I felt Gladys had come to the party for her younger sister’s 80th birthday.

I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her, and I wept.

I wept when I saw my grand niece Haylee who was recovering from an auto collision (she showed me the X-ray) of a broken pelvis (pinned back together) and an almost severed spine which would have left her a paraplegic.

And I wept, not for her injuries as terrible as they were, but for her bravery, resilience, and youthful beauty.

She has grown a lot since she came with Donna to the Oregon coast for a visit and made a glass heart in Lincoln City. Her fight with this traumatic injury was lessened somewhat (she told me) because she was a dancer.

I agreed and later told her father, my nephew Bruce, Donna’s eldest, that I thought it was not only her physicality, but her attitude that served her recovery.

I wept a second time hugging this fragile but enduring, tenacious eighteen year old. Her strength gave me strength (I’m weeping again as I write).

I wept when my brothers, Ron and Don, showed up,with Ron’s wife Pat. I thought he was angry with me for changing my last name from Meskimen to McAnelly because of father issues.

He told me he had contacted each of his sons, Eric and Paul, asking them if he had ever done anything so bad as to piss them off and change their last names?

And then he invited me to Loveland for a sleep over Thursday. I have not been to his house since he had moved there from his retirement house in Estes Park a few years ago.

Well, you know what I did, a little bit.

I spent a lot of time with Susan, Bruce’s wife and Haylee’s step mom, with whom I have not conversed for years but with whom I share an interest in geneology. She said she was using it to find a lost relative.

Susan is a caregiver for Stephen who was with her. I had a long talk with Stephen, who would take awkward notes to help him remember details of what was said.

When I was telling Stephen and Susan about my efforts (unsuccessful so far) to be a better listener, Stephen gave me some advice: you are giving that person a ‘gift’ when you listen completely to them. I told him he had just reversed my attitude 180° with that one word, “gift.”

This party was like the gathering of friends and family at a funeral, but without the death.

I also laughed while I was at the party. I laughed with my brother Donald about our spaghetti dinner in Louisville a few years ago. I laughed at the birthday cake with the number 21 in candles on the top. I laughed when everyone put their name tags on Paul.

It was a great party for my beloved sister who was turning 80.

Later I read her the story I had written for her called “Donna and me.” (But when I tried to print it out for her, I sent it to the wrong printer and the lady at the desk one floors down gave it to us when we went down for dinner.)

Before I close I should also mention the popularity of my kilt, especially among the older women. Several talked to me at length about their own Scottish heritage, tartans, and then asked if I play bagpipes. No one asked what clothing I had on beneath my kilt, not even my brother.

I smiled.

-Small town boy