More than they'll ever know, and probably more than they should!

Okay, I'm new to this and I know I should spend time introducing myself and telling you about my wild life and the kids and why life is so insane all the time around here, but I just keep thinking about last weekend...

It was Dad's birthday and so the boys, Martha and I piled into the car and drove four hours to New Bern to celebrate it with him. He was turning 78 and he is our idol as well as our hero. But that's where the birthday problem comes in...What do you get a man who is so cool he needs and wants nothing?!

I thought the DVD of "What the Bleep Do We Know," but discarded that idea when I learned there was a woman channeling a spirit involved. Dad's a retired Episcopalian minister and while he's closer to being a Buddist, channeling somehow pisses him off. He thinks you need to listen to the voice coming from within you and not the ones allegedly transmitted through another person's voice, particularly if said person is making money off the deal, but I digress...

So, I settled, finally, last minute on another idea; a photo album made into a hardcover book from our annual pilgrimage to a hot dog stand outside of Beaufort...Deb's Dogs. My brother and his family come down every year from outside of Philly, link up with my sister and her kids, and my crew and we all go to eat the best hot dogs at the absolute funkiest roadside stand in the universe. Ok, maybe not the universe, but Deb's Dogs is housed in half an old gas station, and the other half is like a Moose Lodge or something, and there may even be a used appliance dealer somewhere within the confines of the building because there's always a bunch of used stoves or refridgerators or lawn furniture scattered about the place.

And it's always packed with vehicles and people waiting on dogs.

So, back to the story...He loved the album. His best times are when we're all clustered around, hanging with him and telling stories.

In our family the birthday person gets to choose their favorite food for the birthday dinner, as well as their favorite cake. His was carrot and dinner was steak. He's on a health kick and constantly shaking off one form of cancer or another, so red meat is a rarity.

And Martha burned it.

But Dad loves my friend and the steak was still tender, so all was forgiven.

We sat around the table, eating, laughing, and listening to Dad's stories about the old sailing days. If it weren't for calamity, my dad would've had no life at all. This one particular story involved a young woman named Lois, a 21 foot wooden sailboat, a ferocious lightning storm and the Savannah Yacht Club's annual regatta and race. Unfortunately, Dad's boat took a hit that burned out the entire engine and the jib halyard, leaving them with only the mainsail to make it in to the club docks. This was complicated by all the boats waiting to start the race, a crowded dock, no one knowing his boat was disabled and a gust of wind coming just as Lois was headed forward to drop the anchor. The boom jibed, wacked old Lois off the deck, and I guess that's how he ended up with my mother.

I mean, Lois was fine, she just didn't opt for Date # 2.

But that's not the good part of Dad's birthday.

Dad lives in a small, three-story condo overlooking the Neuse River. It is quiet and surrounded by marsh on one side, and woods and fields on the other. In the distance you can see the marina. So the boys and I take our schnauzer, Maggie, out for a last night pee, and the stars are just amazing. We all stand in the middle of the field, staring up at the constellations and trying to identify them, like Dad taught us, only we can't remember this one group.

Adam volunteers to run up and get Grandaddy and when he arrives, a meteor shower begins and we all see falling stars and I tell them about the time in my childhood when Dad woke us all up in the middle of the night to go outside and lie in the grass behind the garage so we could watch this wonderful shower of stars. I look at my boys and think maybe they will always remember this night, just this way, on Grandaddy's birthday, for the rest of their lives.

But noooo....this isn't even the best part!

Dad decides to show us the latest condo project, a series of porches that will be added to each end condo. (He's taking the condo presidency seriously and because he's our idol, we willingly follow him.) We troop across the field, through the breezeway and out onto the narrow strip of grass that divides the condo from the marsh. Just as we step out far enough to see, there is movement from the first floor left-hand side condo. The 8' blinds covering the window are jerked up and there, framed against the brightly lit backdrop of his living room, is a naked guy!

The man, a scrawny, young guy, just stands there for a moment, peering out at us, while everyone but apparently me, stares back, frozen, unable to look away. Finally, the guy jumps to the side, and we all race for the elevator, laughing hysterically. That's when I learn that I am the only one who, for some unknown reason, averted my eyes to be polite! (Me, freaking polite! Now there's a first!)

We race back to Dad's condo, where my sister has the last word. She listens to our tale, smiles wisely and looks at our father, whose first name is Richard. "Well, you know what he was trying to tell you, don't you?" she asks.

She doesn't even wait for him to figure it out.

"He was saying, 'Happy Birthday, Dick!'"

And no, that's not all....

Wednesday night, Dad calls. "George stopped me today," he says.
A little flicker of dread ignites somewhere in the pit of my stomach. "The naked guy?" I don't even know his name, but I'm just guessing here, since I don't know anyone we have in common named George.
"Yep," he says. "He's become concerned with the security around the condos. Says a black guy moved in with a white guy on the third floor and the guy has a tattoo." (Of course, Dad is colorblind, so telling me that George identified these guys by their race, only sets poor George up to fail in whatever he says to Dad after this...) "He said John saw another guy flipping up the doormats on the second floor because he just moved in and couldn't remember which condo he lived in. George says a police officer and his family are moving in next to us for awhile. Says the guy is 6'8", black, a former marine and George is just real glad because he thinks we have a ring of dope dealers renting a condo. George said he was in bed last Saturday night when he heard something outside his window. So he pulled up the blinds and there were these four black men, big guys."

I'm dying. "No, he didn't!"

"Yep," Dad continues. "Said by the time he changed out of his pajamas and got outside with the flashlight, they had made a clean getaway."

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