For Dad, on his 75th birthday

Dad is 75 years old today. This doesn’t mean much, as dad will always be young, and for as long as I can remember says he still feels 19. Naturally, he and mom are spending this weekend with their oldest friends. Dad, Lynn, and Brian went to high school together. To say they’ve known each other for a lifetime is an understatement. They’ve been buddies for three generations, starting in their own magical, Midwestern childhoods and spanning the corporate ladder/baby-making years to the current era with adult children (who are so close we call each other cousins) and grand-spawn (ditto).

Dad never thought he’d see this birthday. At least he didn’t twenty-five years ago, when we were on the screened porch swapping stories and refilling our wine glasses. I was home from college; he had just completed some workshop about financial planning. When asked to estimate his final year on the planet, Dad guessed we’d be arranging a big celebration of life event for him at age 74. (He always says the worst part of dying will be missing the party.)

It sounded far too young to me. But Dad was being practical, and theoretical way-off-in-the-future death is easier to discuss than the realer kind. Still, the idea that he had only another quarter century to do ALL OF THE THINGS had made an impression on him. But anyone who knows John Stockton knows he’ll do all of the things, recognize their importance and impermanence in the very moment, and regale us with the details. Dad has never been able to make a long story short, but excels at the opposite.

As I was thinking about Dad this morning, my phone starting binging with a dozen texts from my cousins.

“Uncle John’s birthday is today!”

“75! Make sure you remind him he’s closer to 80 than 70!”

“Tell him congratulations on his 76th year!”

“Think I can get a Jersey shore liquor store to deliver wine to the house?”

“Sweets on the way!”

Then Facebook reminded me what Joe Burke said about Dad on his birthday three years ago. And as usual, Joe says it better than anyone could:

Your mom raised you best. She just did. She raised you for the long haul. She gave you the dual and mutually supporting gifts of outrageous humor and graceful endurance. She built in you loyalty and integrity. I’ve never known you to equivocate. I’ve never known you to give up on important tasks or people. People may slide but you don’t. You may get exasperated certainly and appropriately — but only to allow for time for things to come around. You are a gifted easy rider with ups and downs. And ride them both with balance and realism and anchored humanity…always with your brand of just barely breath stopping, two feet out in space – appropriately inappropriate humor. You are stunning John Stockton. You are the best friend I ever had. And I hate the space and time and life details that have separated us. Happy Birthday.

I agree with Joe. Grandma Mid raised you best, Dad. (Kinda fun to imagine heaven with those two in it.) I know that the warmth, hospitality, and humor that was classic “Mid” was inherited and even amplified by you. So when my walkway is a tangle of bicycles, our wine rack is depleted, our guest rooms are rarely empty, and the ‘fridge is full of bacon just in case… that’s you. When I can’t tell a story without all of the funny details, that’s you, too. From my oddly-firm-handshake-for-a-girl to a tendency to stay up too late without switching to alternative beverages (which led to a no uncorking after 2am rule), I’ve learned from the best.

At 75, you’re officially off the clock, Dad. The party at the Jersey shore has already started and you’re not missing a single minute of it. Can’t wait for the stories.

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Dad and me, circa 1978

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO STEVIE… by Britt

When Kim suggested we fete Stevie for an unexpected 49th birthday surprise, I was ALL IN. I bet most of us are double booked for any Saturday during the holi-daze, but this is one of the few things I actually wanted to do. Can’t think of many better things than joining a gaggle of Lovers of Steve to raise a glass in his honor.

That event prompted me to go back—way back—through hundreds of Facebook messages where Stevie and I became buddies. Reading these silly essays over the past five (FIVE!) years, one might assume Stevie and I have been besties since the ‘80s. But we weren’t. Back in college, I was only loosely connected to Steve. He was the popular older boy, wickedly smart and funny, a writer for Trinity Tripod, and “in” with all of the pretty, talented people. I’m sure I hardly registered on his radar in the ‘90s. I was a younger, dorky Biology major with Sally Jesse Raphael frames and no fake ID. I would never be game show cool.

remote-control

Remember Remote Control? Stevie was on it, and won.

But by 2008, I was a stay at home Brookline mommy with 3- and 4-year old boys. One day my gorgeous, Swedish babysitter set up a Facebook account to message her for gigs. Email was for, like, old people, Ingrid said. Within months, the Facebook algorithm matched Stevie with me, and once we learned we sort of knew each other, lived only a few miles apart, and had similarly inappropriate things to say to each other on line, it was instant friendship.

Three years later our text messaging and occasional in person catch-ups became something deeper. I got breast cancer. Stevie was divorcing and then… dating. There was much to discuss. Reading through those old Facebook exchanges I can feel the comedic relief Steve was sending me through the interspaces. Surrounded by stifling, helpful, baffling, wonderful, and hilarious Asian relatives, I maintained sanity trading short messages with Steve that still make me giggle. I swear he suffered through at least one date with a crazy woman merely to provide stories for my amusement. Bald, poisoned, mutilated, and badgered by relatives insisting I eat papaya soup, I retreated to my bedroom and laptop to laugh with Stevie. This little exchange was about a woman we nicknamed “Chinatown.” That thread is too racy for even this crowd… but here’s a sample.

SS:  Black leather jacket or peacoat?











BL:  It’s fucking cold and leather is trying too hard.











SS: Agreed











BL:  And you don’t want her to think you’re one of those guys that is always hot and sweating. Wear a jaunty scarf. We like those, too.




 We, meaning me. And it’s optional.











SS:  I don’t like this online thing– I’d much rather a reference from you: “He’s a little hairy and out of shape, but worth it.”









 I don’t do jaunty scarfs. Do I need to get one? What color/style?

BL:  Forget the scarf. I’ll get it for you.




 She is welcome to message me any time on Friday. I have no biopsies planned. And I will totally vouch for your worthiness.




 And who wouldn’t take to heart the words of a hot, dying girl?










 SS: “My friend and shiksa goddess Britt has cancer, but is more focused on me. As it should be.”











 BL: Too much? I’m not dying. Really. But you can use it to get into Chinatown.











 
SS:  I can work up a tear. You would have wanted it that way.











BL:  But if my Komen fight can get you laid, then you’re coming to Church with me on Sunday.











SS:  If I can get laid after LUNCH, I am accepting Jesus as my Lord, Savior and King.

We didn’t realize this was the start of our back and forth blogging at the time, but I quickly recognized Steve’s appearances in my comments were just as popular as my on line posts. So did he. This message preceded one of our first shared writing ventures that was featured by WordPress and continues to be circulated.

SS:  The blog keeps getting better. I think you should invite guest bloggers. I think I should be one. Because I always try to make things about me. And I’m pretty fucking funny.

I agreed heartily. Still do.

Last year, in a devastating show of solidarity and commitment to the blog and our friendship, Stevie got cancer. The mutilating surgery, go bald kind. Seriously, Stevie… this was above and beyond. As a veteran, I had an arsenal of right things to say. I had experience, expertise, and empathy. But I was angry and sad and scared and terrified. Fuck cancer and the rogue cells and fates that choose its victims. To date Steve has written funny and poignant essays about love, loss, life, death… and, you know, marshmallow fluff.

And now our friendship is the stuff of books and movies and really something that we are too lazy to actually capitalize on. We’ll tackle that in 2017. But tonight, celebrating the eve of his 50th year on the planet, knowing he is marinating in love and friendship, I want to tell the world (or at least our limited readership) that I love him dearly and think somehow ours is the most special friendship. And I’ll bet many of us feel exactly like this—that we have a particularly funny and fantastic friendship with Steve that is unmatched. Thank you for making me feel special by inviting me to be a part of your weird and wonderful world.

Happy Birthday, Stevie.

xoxo