It had been a particularly challenging week and I was delighted when bedtime arrived Friday night and I could turn the radio alarm clock to the off position. Even without a nudge from that appliance, I started waking up, right on time, but repeatedly settled back into a deep sleep, reminding myself over and over again that it was Saturday morning and I could sleep as late as I wanted.
Our eldest, Ben, had other plans. He always seems to have other plans.
When I awoke in the early morning hours of July 19, 1975, it was not part of my daily routine. Back then, I could stay up until all hours -- and frequently did -- knowing I could sleep until the sun was high in the sky. It was, on retiring the night before, going to be just another day during a long hot summer in the Big Horn Basin in north central Wyoming.
Little did I know that scant hours later, my doctor would be surprised to see me in the labor/delivery room at the hospital. After all, just the day before, during a regular prenatal exam, I had finally worked up the nerve to ask what to expect when the baby started coming. Believing I had at least five weeks left, he assured me that when the time came I would know what was going on.
He was wrong. I had no idea what was going on. He did, and sent Danny home that morning with the assurance that "this would take awhile, he'd best get some sleep while he could." Danny didn't hesitate as he had just come off a 12-hour shift, and would have been back on the line at 6 a.m., if I hadn't caused this slight detour to the hospital.
Imagine Danny's surprise when he came back to the hospital a couple of hours later to find that things had moved quite a bit further along than anyone expected and before too much more time passed, he held our firstborn, Ben.
Just as I was rolling over Saturday morning, fully intending to go right back to sleep again, I noticed a bright light where darkness had reigned just moments before. I remember thinking, "That's not right." Just as I threw the covers back, I heard voices and then immediately, many footsteps pounding up the stairway to the unoccupied second story. Rushing to find my robe, I woke Danny up, telling him that someone was going up into the second story.
Unafraid of the sound of his own voice he hollered, "Hello! Who's there?"
It was Ben, Shelley, Nate and our Colorado girls, Haili and Maddy, come to surprise us for a weekend visit. They were the ones who were surprised. They had no way of knowing that I had permanently killed the red car the week before so when they saw that it wasn't in the driveway they took off looking for us. First to Walmart, knowing our early shopping habits, and then to the train station to see if we'd parked there to catch the train. They even drove out to the hospital to see if we were there.
"But you're always up by 4!" Ben explained, "You had to be somewhere."
I was too busy hugging and kissing everyone who walked through the door to bother replying.
Before too much time had passed, I had scrambled eggs, hash browns, toast and bacon on the table and we were making plans for the day. Our standard weekend chores were immediately abandoned and we began living in the moment, enjoying whatever each moment brought to us.
While Danny and Ben focused on a spur-of-the-moment father/son project, the rest of us trekked out to the grocery store for supplies, over to the library for books, even taking in a little of the Shoot for the Shelter fundraiser at Kelley Creek Pub.
This wasn't Ben's first surprise visit by a long shot. A few years ago, I woke to hear Danny saying, "Well, hello. What are you doing here?" He was not using his Boo Kitty voice and I immediately knew he was talking to another human being, and by his tone, a short one. I sprang out of bed and grabbed my robe -- and discovered Ben, Haili and Maddy making their way through our front door. It was Ben's 32nd birthday present to himself. I suspect he knew that as he gifted himself, he gifted us as well.
It had been a challenging week. We retired Friday night completely undone by the many unwelcome surprises that had come our way as the car went poof, the truck showed its age and the din of a world lost in the chaos of terrorism, economic collapse and presidential campaigns deafened our hearts and our hearing.
And then, sweet respite came, in the faces of the ones we love, in the frequent embraces, the mock wrestling matches and the never-ending conversations where no one was excluded. We even managed to share Super Mario World with the next generation.
Thanks, Ben. We love your surprises, every single one of them!
"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! "Matthew 7:11 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.