Thursday, October 2, 2008


My dad turned 60 on September 29th. As I was talking to my sister Heather (who lives with him in San Diego) several months ago we threw out the idea of having all of the siblings go there to surprise him for his birthday. It seemed an impossible feat--we are spread across the country and all have families and jobs and school, but as it came closer it seemed like it actually might work. Heather and my dad's partner Ruff made all the plans on the San Diego end and the rest of us made arrangements to get there. Megan is still stick and is in a long-term care facility, so she couldn't come with us :(.

Early Friday morning, David and his wife Katty, Lindsey and her baby Jonah, and I set off on our one day drive to San Diego. We took David's fun new car (a Mazda 3) which was actually quite roomy, even with the five of us. That's not to say we had extra space (especially in the trunk!) but it was comfortable!We met up with our (step)brother Clint who lives in Vegas for lunch at In-N-Out.

Jonah loved entertaining us (and being entertained) in the car. He was so good for the whole trip! We got to San Diego in the early evening and met Heather who told my dad she was "going out with friends" for dinner at Panera Bread (yummy!!!) and then we crashed in a cheap hotel for the night since we weren't going to meet up with the others until Saturday.

In the morning we went to the swap meet (a favorite thing to do when we were younger--we'd save all of our money to spend it there when we'd go to visit my Dad during the summer). While we were at the swap meet my dad called me... I was trying to play it cool and ask normal questions... and be very vague about what I was doing so I didn't have to blatantly lie...saying things like "Oh, the kids have soccer games today" or "there's a wedding reception tonight" and I even asked how the weather was in San Diego and then had to make up the weather in Utah when he asked me about it. I almost gave it away a few times (I don't think I'm a very good liar), but I don't think he had any idea I was actually IN San Diego.

We spent a few hours in the afternoon at an outlet mall close to the border. Everyone (but me because I'm picky) ate at a mongolian grill place for lunch.

Katty and David, so happy together!

Then we went off to Ocean Beach (Matt thought he was funny with the seaweed) where we devised plans of how we were going to surprise my dad. Matt wanted to jump off a building on the pier as my dad was walking or scream "BOO" really loud at him. We thought that might set off his defibrillator, and we really didn't want to find out if it works for his birthday surprise. Lindsey wanted to line up and sing barbershop quartet style to him... does she think we are the von Trapp family singers? All good ideas, but we decided to play it cool and just sing "Happy Birthday."
Self-portrait (Katty and David are especially good at taking these kinds of photos!).

It wasn't a super-warm day (very cloudy at the beach) but Jonah loved being in the sand and by the water.
We amazingly enough all gathered at the appointed time... but as usual we were running a little late. Lauren and Erin saw my dad and tried to hide, but he didn't see them. Ruff saw them and was worried that my dad would see them, so he faked having something in his shoe and made my dad help him with it while everyone gathered below the pier. They were waiting on the pier and were looking out over the water so we tried to be in stealth mode as we walked down the pier (insert bathroom break) and came up behind him singing "Happy Birthday". As he turned around and realized that his children were all standing there he was a little bit dumb-struck--he was so shocked that all of us were there, and then asked, "What are you all doing here?" as if it were for some other reason than to be with him for his birthday. There were lots of happy tears and he expressed that earlier in the day he had been thinking about how wonderful it would be to be all together.

For several minutes he still couldn't believe we were all there! On the right is Heather with Lauren's baby Grace.
We ate at a Mexican restaurant where mole is the specialty... I'm not such a big fan, but lots of people loved it. I was very happy with my boring cheese enchiladas :).

This neat old bicycle was chained outside the restaurant (someone had ridden it there!) so we all took it as a good photo op.
After we got back from dinner he got to sit in the birthday chair to accept his gifts. The biggest gift of course was US being there, but we wanted to give him a few small things too.

We all gave him a little "gifty" (as he calls them) of something that reminded us of him--Lauren gave him Whoppers because she remembered him going to buy a box of Whoppers for a house guest who was celebrating a birthday and she learned that special days are important to celebrate. Many of our gifts were food-related (Oreos for the "real" snacks he always has around, Snickers for the wrappers Lindsey found all around his room when he mysteriously gained a lot of weight, cheese and crackers because he always likes to serve good appetizers, and honey roasted peanuts because had those around a lot too and would let David "sneak" them whenever he wanted).
Erin found him a great little statue of Buddha. He has an amazing back yard with all different kinds of plants, bird feeders, and Buddha statues--he says they are a good reminder of peace and light.
Megan and I remembered stamping t-shirts with seashells on one of our summer trips to his house. We all wore them to the zoo or Wild Animal Park together. I stamped an apron with seashells (and stamps) for him. On the left is a big magnet board of our once-in-a-lifetime trip to Paris with my dad, Ruff, Lauren, Heather, Erin, and me in July of 2005. I used photos from the trip to make magnets (using clear rocks). I didn't get a great photo of it, but it turned out so cute and it was so fun to relive some of those crazy memories.

As my dad was trying to come to terms with turning 60, he asked each of us to just give him a card or a letter telling about a memory we had of him. We decided to compile it into a book so that it would be a nice gift and easy to keep track of.
I found this great quote by Virginia Wolf for the front page of the book.

We each included a picture with our letters that told of our favorite memories of him. The book turned out great!

That night, David was really sick. He wasn't sure what hit him, but he had it coming out both ends. Poor David. He felt a bit better in the morning.
Sunday after a few of us went to church, we did round two of presents. Olivia drew a picture and wrote her favorite memory with my dad--getting up before everyone else and playing checkers with him. Lauren's kids sent some funny cards mocking his new "old age."

My aunts Dianne and Channa sent him a neat compilation of CS Lewis' works.

My sweet Grandma Cole put together a booklet of pictures from the time my dad was born and all through his life. She included snippets from newspapers when he was a sterling scholar at West High School and and letters from him to her mom (Grandma Crook) and mission and graduation pictures. It was such a thoughtful gift, and I think we kids enjoyed it as much as he did. More happy tears.

Then we went to Balboa Park for a picnic. Balboa Park was another of our favorite outings. His favorite cake is Red Velvet cake (yummy!) and luckily we didn't have to actually light 60 candles!!!
Our whole gang at the park: (back row) Jonah, Lindsey, me, Matt, Erin, my dad, and Ruff; (front row: Katty, David, Heather, Lauren, Grace.

When we were little we loved to jump in the fountain at Balboa Park. Erin (with Jonah), Lindsey, and David thought it would be fun to get in again.

We decided to see the movie "Forever Strong" together (even though most of us don't usually go to movies on Sundays) since we were all leaving starting that evening. We really wanted to support the movie during opening weekend and make sure our family saw it. Running late (as usual) we missed the opening 10 minutes, then Katty got up a few minutes later because she was feeling sick. Close to the end of the movie, David came to get us saying that Katty couldn't stop vomiting and he was going to take her to the hospital. We decided to try Pepto and an anti-nausea medication first so we headed home... and when that didn't work David got worried that she would get dehydrated... so they tried going to an urgent care place that took their insurance but they couldn't help them and so they went to the hospital... where she finally stopped throwing up and got some rest in the ER. Matt flew home Sunday night. My dad, David, and Katty got home at 3 am Monday morning (welcome to your birthday Dad!). Heather got sick that night too. Our car was supposed to go home Monday, and Lindsey and I needed to get back, but Katty still wasn't feeling good. Matt called to tell us he'd been really sick all morning too. Lindsey and I started feeling sick. We debated about what to do and at the last minute grabbed a flight home (yay for JetBlue!). We aren't sure if it was food poisoning (mongolian grill?) or some horrible virus, but whatever it was, it was nasty. Thankfully, we are all better (except for Lauren's family, who caught it even though they weren't there, Lauren must have brought it home!).

It seems that every family trip has a crisis (which is worthy of an entire blog post sometime) and this time around, we didn't even make it more than 12 hours all together before someone got sick.... However, aside from the horrible ending, it was a great surprise for my dad. Even as he said goodbye he was so emotional that we had taken the time and effort to spend his birthday with him. Sixty isn't so bad, right?

**Have you ever been a part of such a grand, elaborate surprise?


Heidi said...

That is such a touching story--I love the way your dad reacted when he first saw everybody. I also loved seeing all of the pictures. I know I have said this before but I am amazed to see how much your siblings have grown up and changed, especially the younger ones. You and Lauren haven't changed as much. I am sorry to hear that Megan couldn't be there.

Linn said...

I love this story! And I loved hearing all the details. My mom called your dad (from her mission)for his birthday and he couldn't quit talking about all you had done and had wonderful it was. Way to go! I absolutely LOVE surprises and while not as grand, have done a lot of similar thingsl. Thanks for sharing the whole story.

Cheri said...

How fun for you all!! I bet this tops your dad's list of top birthdays ever. We were both in So Cal at the same time (my parents still live there).

Ashley and Matt said...

Lisa, it was good to get scoop for you. With Matt being so sick Monday and Tuesday I hardly got any details.

Looks like you guys had a great time and your Dad was really happy.

Ashley and Matt said...

I am finally recovered from my sickness. But Ashley can testify it was coming out both ends :) I just wanted to say thank you Lisa for planning this trip I know it will be a happy life long memory.

Love your brother,

Matt Cole

Kristi said...

What a great celebration (all except for the sickness part). I'm glad you got to play for several days with your family. And look at you, with the stamped apron, magnet board and photo magnets (how did you do that? cute), putting the memory book together!! You always go above and beyond. Thanks for sharing those fun pictures!

the harpers said...

What a fantastic time for your Dad. That is such a great surprise for him, and I'm sure it was equally as touching for your siblings. What a fun little time away too! Vacations are so much fun!! Speaking of vacations...we will see you Saturday at the airport!! Yah! Florida here we come :)

Janene said...

I love such grand, elaborate surprises! Last time I tried to fly to Texas and surprise someone, wind wouldn't let us land and I was stuck on a plane for NINE hours.

I love this story. I was actually almost getting nervous as you were describing the sneaking up on him at the pier. :o) Silly. This is just such a great memory for you all!

Daniel, Lyndsie and Makai said...

What a sweet family! I can't believe you all went to see your cute dad on his big birthday. Looks like such a fun trip (until the end--that is too bad you all got sick!) Such cute pictures. I'm sure you will remember that trip forever. It was so fun to see you on Saturday!