The Retirement Party
“ The Retirement Party”
My loving wife Coletta is retiring at the end of this school year. She waited until her sixth graders reached eighth and were ready to move on to the high school. Her last day is June 17th. Now you have to know my wife. Unlike her LOOK AT ME! Barking Dog of a Husband, she is humble, quiet, and private. (They say opposites attract). When she turned 50 a few years ago, she told me in no uncertain terms; "NO PARTIES! You try and surprise me, you all will be the ones surprised because I will walk right out." So...I agreed to just take her for dinner in Annapolis. And that is all I did with one minor exception. A stretch limo pulled up, and took us and two other couples to the dinner in Annapolis.
Similarly she made it QUITE CLEAR she did not want any recognition for her almost 30 years in Caroline County. She just wanted to slide out quietly. If she had been in her elementary school (Ridgely for 22 years) she would have hired a hot air balloon to pick her up and she would get in and wave good bye to all the kids. But she was at a new school, one she has come to love, but only three years, is not quite the same as 22. So..no parties, no recognition, nothing. She re-emphasized this last weekend when I made the mistake of taking a selfie of us. "DO NOT POST THAT! I do not want pictures of me going out on your Facebook page, you KNOW I don't like recognition, I don't like being singled out, and I DON'T LIKE PARTIES!"
Oops! Because for the last several weeks her family at Ridgely and Colonel Middle have been working on a party for her. Over 30 have signed up and we have pictures of her for a slide show, and flowers, and dinner at a nice place (Harry's in Denton). I even got a sheet cake with "YOU MADE IT!" (Sade's idea) and, "Will you still love me when you're 64?" (she turns 64 June 29th) and a photo of a hot air balloon on the cake that reads, "It's your special day."
She know nothing about it, and around 5:00 I will let her know I am taking her to dinner at Harry's and that I have a reservation at 6:30. Guests arrive at 6:00. Boy, am I excited. Why, since she hates parties? This morning when we were making the bed she said, "You know, if I was still at Ridgely, they would be giving me a great send-off, but I don't think Colonel will." Boy will she be surprised! Stay tuned for tomorrow.
Part Two: The Party
So everything was set. The cake was at the restaurant and the projection screen and the flowers and 30+ people knew to be there at 6:00, all I had to do was get her there at 6:15. We did some yard work this morning, and I went to the recycling center. Sade had a graduation party at 3:00, we were to drop her off and she told me she would figure out how to get to the restaurant by 6:00. Coletta wanted to get a haircut in Easton, about a 25 minute drive, but Sade's party was on the way so we dropped her off and then headed to the hair cuttery. The host of the graduation party told us we too were invited (only Sade's name was on the invitation ) but Coletta told him we were headed to Easton, maybe we would stop on the way back (fat chance).
We got to the salon, Coletta got her haircut (3:30) and wanted to stop by Kohl's. She checked out the sales and picked me up on her way out the door where I sat in the vestibule (watching her looking for clothes in not my idea of a good time). 4:00 As we walked out to the car, she told me (for the third time now) how hungry she was, "I need to get something in my stomach." I had to tell her why this couldn't happen. "Look, I want to take you out for dinner...at Harry's. I have a reservation for 6:30, so I don't want you to spoil your appetite."
She agreed to grab an iced coffee at McDonald's and some fries, so I crossed the Kohl's parking lot and pulled up the drive through. I came to the first speaker only to be directed by a robotic voice to, "Pull up to the second station." I complied to be greeted by a LIVE voice, "I'll be with you in a minute. Two minutes later, no one has come back on line, however...the lady behind me is getting her order filled AT THE FIRST STATION. A live voice comes and goes, "HELLO I shout, is there anybody in there?" "I'll be with you in a minute," he says...AGAIN and I shout, "THE LADY IN THE CAR BEHIND ME ALREADY GAVE HER ORDER HOW ABOUT SOME SERVICE OVER HERE?" He takes our order, asks twice what size fry, three times what size drink..."Medium...Ice Coffee...two...two creams, two sugar." "Do you want Hazelnut flavor or Carmel?" "Carmel for both." We pull up to the first window to pay the simpleton taking orders, then to the second window to pick up our fries and drinks. I pull out, stick a straw in my drink, take a sip...blahhhh. "This tastes terrible there's no sugar or carmel." I am halfway to town when Coletta takes a drink. "Yuk this IS terrible. Go back, there's no carmel in this, we have time." 4:15 I turn through a parking lot and head back to McDonald's. Coletta grabs the two drinks and heads into the place. She comes back with two carmel laced drinks 4:25.
We drive home, 5:00, but we have time to relax before we have to leave for town at 6:00. Fifteen minutes and we will be at the restaurant. I will leave out the part about the dog sitting and walking, just a minor complication to being at a restaurant for several hours. At 6:00 I suggest we head out, "Why, we don't have to be there until 6:30? " I told her 6:30 because who makes a reservation for 6:15? I tell her I want to be there at 6:15 to make sure we are there when our table is ready at 6:30. We head out to the car. The phone rings. It's Sade.
Now then, Coletta thinks Sade is at the graduation party, not at Harry's waiting for us, so when Sade asks me, "What time are you leaving?" with Coletta sitting right next to me, I say, "We are in the car leaving now, bye." If Sade is at the party having fun WHY WOULD SHE BE CALLING ME ABOUT WHEN WE WERE LEAVING? I hang up. We are pulling into the parking lot of the restaurant, phone rings again. SADE! "Where are you coming into the restaurant from?" Any information I give to Sade about my location and entry point, might give Coletta an idea that something is up. I tell Sade, "STOP ASKING STUPID QUESTIONS!" and I hang up. Of course mother hen asks, "What was she asking you" Why did you hang up on her?" "Don't worry she just wanted to know where we were." "I'm calling her," she says and calls Sade who doesn't pick up (Thank God). "She must be mad because you hung up on her," she scolds. "Whatever," I reply.
We walk across the parking lot to Harry's, an old Victorian house with a veranda and porch. The dining area has two large rooms ,one of which is filled with our 30+ guests. We walk up the steps, follow an elderly couple in who approaches the Hostess. "Dinner for two?" the Hostess asks them, grabs two menus and leads them to the other room without our guests. Hmmm, I think, what am I going to say when she returns? "Miller party of 30?" "I'm with the big group that's going to surprise my wife here?' I'm the Miller party". No, I don't know how to handle the hostess, so I tell Coletta, just follow that couple. Of course she balks, "No, wait for the Hostess." "No, just go on ahead, I insist almost pushing her ahead of me as we follow the older couple. They turn left, our group is on the right, Coletta says, "We're NOT WITH THEM!" and I say, "No, we are with THEM! pointing to 30 + guests who shout "SURPRISE!"
She is completely surprised. A heavily emotional moment as she realizes how many friends she has, who have turned up for her benefit. The evening went great. We talked, and she hugged, and we ate, and Cristi showed photos of Coletta and kids and Coletta and friends, and just some great memories. Cristi spoke and I said a few words and altogether it was a wonderful evening. And she stayed until the last person left. What a blessed relief.