Last week was my birthday, “49+1” as M called it. As a surprise M arranged a small vacation for us just to get away and spend some time together. She had told me earlier to take the week off, but I had no idea where we were going or what we were going to do. She had arranged the whole trip as a surprised.
I must admit I’m pretty good at ruining surprises. I seem to have a knack about figuring out what my presents are long before I get them. And once again I had deduced Las Vegas before I even got home from my last trip. So I had to act surprised when we got to the airport and checked in for Las Vegas.
Acting job complete, we were off to Las Vegas. I have to admit there was a small part of me that was a little sad it was just going to be M and I. It was my (49+1)th and it was just going to be the two of us. But it was just a little cloud floating around in my head and I was still excited to spend the week with M and just enjoy her company.
Once we arrived in LV we made our way to the hotel. All the while, M keeps talking about the dinner reservations she’s made for us and how we need to get ready for dinner. I’m going to admit right here, I had a zero, there was no part of me that saw it coming and I’m disappointed in myself that I was completely and totally caught off guard. Off to dinner we go and the maitre d’ points at our table and says they’re right over there. Now, I eat at nice restaurants 4 or 5 times a week, and I have a certain level of service I expect and having the maitre d’ just point to our table was completely not acceptable. But M took the lead and off she went, I’m following her thinking that we should have made him seat us. Then M arrives at quite a large table with two empty seats and holds a chair out for me, and I’m thinking I’m not eating at a restaurant on my birthday sitting with 5 people I don’t know. So my brain is sitting there stewing the fact the maitre d’ didn’t sit us at our table, I have to sit with 5 people I don’t know, and at the same time it’s processing the faces of the people at our table. I’ll be honest it took an embarrassing long time to realize those faces were my family. My two boys, their girlfriends, and friends were sitting at the table staring at me waiting for the light bulb to go off.
It was quite the surprise and M had pulled it off perfectly. It had all of the elements of a classic con job. The head fake, letting me think I figured out the surprise of LV, the redirection of going to a nice dinner for my birthday. Followed by confusion at the critical moments right before the surprise is revealed.
But there was more to it than that, if I had known I’d be having dinner with the whole family, the boys, their girlfriends and friends I would have been a basket case the whole day. It was the first time the whole family has gone out with me as Dana in public. I would have been nervous the whole flight, and had the jitters through most of dinner worried how everyone was doing with me.
But instead I was shocked, there were hugs all around and everyone was smiling from ear to ear. Thoughts of family, and friends, and surprise, and shock just completely overwhelmed any thoughts of nervousness or worry. That first few minutes of Dana in public with all of my family was spent smiling, and laughing, and hugging instead of worrying and doubting myself. It was the single best gift I have every received.
M had giving me exactly what I had most feared losing in this whole transition. She gave me a happy, loving family who’s behind me every step along this path. She gave me this gift in the best way possible, as a surprise with no apprehension about it.
Years from now, as M and I are sitting on a park bench looking back on a life full of love and joy, I will remember this gift and still not be able to repay her for all she has done for me.