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Still stunned from birthday surprise

July 25, 2008 - Neil Rudel

Today is my birthday, No. 52 and a low-key event.

I wouldn't even bring it up, except that I'm still fairly numb from the surprise my wife, Dianne, orchestrated for the big one two years ago and guess it's blog-worthy.

The background: I always wondered how someone could be surprised for their 40th or 50th, that it would be tough to be led anywhere during that time without suspicion. After going to Atlanta for my brother Mark's 40th in 1997 and seeing him being led into a rural recreation center and being shocked, I attributed my lovable bro's whiplashed response to his slightly terminal case of obliviousness, which hasn't stopped him from scaling UPS's corporate ladder.

About three months before my 50th, Dianne kept telling me that we had been invited to a surprise birthday party, on July 29, for the husband of her niece at the Brush Mountain's Sportsman's Club.

A month beforehand, she asked me how I wanted to celebrate -- "since you can't be surprised" -- and I told her I wanted only family and a few friends at our house on Friday (July 28). We roasted and toasted, laughed and cried, and everybody stayed around for the weekend.

Around 5:30 Saturday, we were due at the Brush Mountain Sportsman's Club, and I said, "why do we have to be there for the surprise? We can go later."

Dianne assured me we only needed to stay an hour, then we could re-convene with my family, which had gathered from Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Johnstown.

 As we pulled into the club, I said, "Don't ya think Rick's going to figure this out when he sees these cars?" and my last words were: "When's the light bulb going to go off for this guy?"

We got out of the car and everybody -- 125-plus -- is looking at me. A deer in the headlights, I wondered why they're looking at me, neither expecting or wanting a surprise. Like a weird dream, I could not connect the dots quickly enough as my entire life was passing before my eyes. I could not process how my oldest friend, Ronny Moskat, who came from Seattle, would be standing beside our Community News editor, Brenda Carberry.

Many of the people were at our house the night before, true foils biting their lips.

Dianne, of course, was wetting her pants at this point as I was coming to grips with "never being able to be surprised."

To top it off, she and brother Mark had arranged for Commander Cody, my old favorite band (OK, second behind Steely Dan), to be the entertainment. He was setting up as we arrived. Before ultimately getting to "Hot Ride Lincoln," he opened as he always does with "Too Much Fun."

Cody finding the Brush Mountain's Sportsman's Club, though, was just the second biggest surprise of the night.

And my life.






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