She Threw a Party and Everybody Came

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comMy mother-in-law, Ava, decided to throw my father-in-law an 80th birthday party picnic.

I was in the room the first time she floated the idea by Kim on the phone. I heard every word.

I truly thought she would sleep on it and decide having a nice family meal inside a cool restaurant would be a much better alternative.

But, she didn’t; and the party planning began.

First the guest list was 40 people. Then it grew to 50. 

It topped out at 60 and contained all the relatives from both sides of the family, friends, neighbors and people from church.

Red — that’s my father-in-law — has lots of friends.

Labor Day was hot, and the pavilion at the park didn’t offer much relief. Soon after we got there I was handed a bag of charcoal and a bunch of wieners.

This was a state park grill. You know the type. No lid. A big heavy-duty grate with the charred remains from a half million burgers stuck to it. A stick to stir the coals left there by the last people who used it.

I love to grill, but I like the home-field advantage.

Of course, it’s hard to mess up a hotdog. But since I was cooking in front of 60 people, I figured I had a fighting chance to do just that. 

And besides, barbecue was the main course.

I was sweating before I even lit the fire, and it only got worse when Ava asked me to say the blessing.

I should note here that about three-fourths of the family serve a church in some capacity.

They either currently are or have been deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers, choir directors or whatever other church titles you can think of.

It was like Bill Belichick asking me if I wanted to quarterback the Patriots on Sunday. 

“Surely I am the least qualified person here to do that, don’t you think?”

“Well,” she said, “I want you to know you were my first choice.”

I don’t know if it was the searing heat, or the holy spirit, or what, but I agreed to do it.

By now my shirt looked like I had just been baptized in the lake. Lighting the grill made it that much worse.

I put on the dogs and started practicing my blessing.

I considered pulling out “God is Great, God is Good” but figured I could do better than that.

When the dogs came off, we bowed our heads and I muddled through it.

It was short and sweet, but I guess I did okay. None of the relatives gave me any pointers, at least.

Now is when it get’s weird, though.

Since Kim and one of her cousins continued replenish the food while everyone went through the line, I decided to hold off eating until she ate.

I asked the old, “Is there anything I can do?” question, fully expecting to be told no.

“You can cut the desserts.”

Say what?

I can grill, even on a dinosaur from the ’50s. I can even pray in front of a bunch of people who are way better at it than I am.

But give me a red velvet cake and a knife, and I am a lost ball in tall weeds.

I think I ended up with 13 trapezoid-shaped pieces in a variety of sizes.

As long as the birthday boy got one of the big ones, I don’t guess it really matters.

About Barry Currin

Barry tries to be funny and poignant, and he's usually satisfied when he succeeds with one or the other. (Being both is awesome. And sometimes that happens.) Email him:

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