As you get older you begin to assess the regrets you've had in life. One of mine is that because I moved to Wisconsin in 1987 I haven't been around for my mother's birthday in about 25 years. Well I wasn't going to miss another, especially when she was about to turn 80-years-old in February.
As usual she didn't want a fuss made over it, so we obliged sort of. With my mom you go with the flow and she decided she wanted to pay for a dinner for immediate family at Sidetracks Bar and Restaurant in Cooks, Michigan. If you don't know where Cooks, Michigan is, it is one of the many places in the USA that lent its name to the ever popular t-shirt "Where the hell is....?"
The big day came and we traveled out to the restaurant with my nephew Max playing designated driver. Seated at a big table we ordered drinks and swapped stories across the table. All family differences were put on hold for the night and we enjoyed each others company.
Part of the fun was seeing what everyone ordered. We took samples from each other's plates and shared smiles and laughs with others coming and going from the restaurant who wanted to know what the celebration was about.
Unbeknownst to my mom, my sister Kathy had snuck a big sheet cake into the back of the restaurant. The management slipped a rendition of "Happy Birthday" onto the overhead speakers and we all sang as the cake made its way to the table. My mom was surprised and happily shared cake with the rest of the people in the restaurant.
At one point during the evening I made my way to the restroom and noticed they had put up a chalkboard on the wall. It was a clever effort to prevent some of the more tasteless comments usually scrawled on the walls from becoming permanent. When I went back to the table I happened to mention that someone had written on the chalkboard, "For a good time call Don'a Nelson!" It wasn't true of course, but got a good laugh from the whole table.
Honestly my mom has provided our family with some good times over the years and I'm happy she was there to make the special occasion.