• Dana L. Butler

On 60th Birthdays and Celebrating Lives

Bless my parents’ hearts (<---Please read aloud in the most Southern accent imaginable). My dad turned 60 in December and my mom will also in April.  Oh, the GLARES I would be getting if they knew I was letting you in on this CLASSIFIED information! 🙂 Stan and Isaac and I were here (in North Carolina) visiting my parents this past Thanksgiving when they let my siblings and me know, in NO uncertain terms, that they did NOT want a surprise ANYTHING for their 60th birthdays.  Nothing.  Not a party, not us showing up at their front door to surprise them… nothing. So… here I am in Greensboro 2 weeks before my mom’s…um… (ahem) 60th birthday. And Stan and I decided before I came that I should take my parents out for dinner to celebrate my mom, given the timing of my trip relative to her birthday.

Let me tell ya… it was like pulling teeth to get them to accept! 🙂 I finally asked Stan to call my dad and “encourage” him to allow me to take them to dinner.  Stan did so…. and after hanging up the phone, my dad (half-joking) said, “So… ya sicked Stan on me, huh?” in his Southern-gentleman, slow-talking accent. They finally obliged.  We ate at their favorite Mexican restaurant.  I’m pretty sure my parents want to wait a few years before going out to dinner with my family again.  Isaac wasn’t exactly the quietest person in the restaurant.  He was up and down, excitedly describing in detail the decor around our booth.  “It’s a mooooooon, and a suuuuuunnnnn, and it’s smiliinnnnnnng, has a mouuuuuuth….”   In between bites of guacamole and burrito and fajitas, and in between my (only somewhat successful) efforts to keep my kiddo calm and entertained, I think I asked my mom how it felt to be turning 60… a question which I will never ask in public again because she promptly shushed me. 🙂 The conversation turned toward how neither of my parents like surprises, and how my dad never felt like birthdays were a big deal because “It’s not like I accomplished something special – everyone has birthdays.”  **Let me interrupt myself right here and say that my parents are NOT Eeyore-type people, always down in the dumps, feeling sorry for themselves about something.  Since I’m writing and you can’t hear the tone of my voice, I’m just clarifying that neither of them were being grumpy or “down” in the way that they were communicating.  They were simply sharing their honest thoughts about birthdays.  60th ones, in particular.** So after my dad’s “everyone has birthdays” comment, my response was something like, “Well, y’all can celebrate me whenever you like!  No special occasion necessary!”  Jerusha echoed my opinion. And all of that “to celebrate or not to celebrate” talk got me thinking: I LOVE to feel celebrated.  I LOVE to know that people are happy I’m alive, happy I’m in their lives… that they value me.  And for 2 people who don’t value birthdays as much as I do, my parents did a great job celebrating my birthdays when I was growing up… which I think is what instilled in me my value for birthdays.  My own and others’. And my thoughts about how much I love to feel celebrated led to thoughts of how much OTHER people like to feel celebrated… and I’d venture a guess that even people who would be mortified if they were thrown a surprise 60th birthday party like to feel valued and celebrated too, in some form or fashion.  Right?  Hence my mini-surprise birthday dinner for my dad back in November.  And hence my mom’s Mexican dinner and Dairy Queen dessert last night. I just can’t NOT do SOMEthing to celebrate them. Birthday or no birthday, I SO want to be an expert “celebrator” of others.  I want to see people the way that God sees them, value the things in them that He SO values… and I want to express, with words and actions, the way that I value the people in my life. I have lots of growing to do in this arena… but this is who I want to be. I want to be a person who lets love reach... who doesn’t hold back… who trusts God and lets go and loves with a wide open heart. Creativity in celebrating others… now that’s where I feel like I struggle.  The heart and desire are there… but creativity, when it comes to gifts and celebrations, is not my strong point. And I just had the thought to ask you, my readers, these questions today:

1. DO you like to feel celebrated?  Why or why not?2. If so, what are some ways in which you’ve been celebrated that have been deeply meaningful to you?

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