Our westbound return flights were cancelled due to thunderstorms and tornado watches in Detroit. Unfortunately, this wasn’t determined until we had stood in line for five hours, but at least the airline paid for our extra night’s stay. They routinely put stranded passengers up at the Hilton, across the street, so we consoled ourselves with the fact that it was quite comfortable. After a marathon day of standing in line, and being shifted from one line to another, exhaustion was our only souvenir. Our suitcase was happy to make the original flight, leaving us without a change of clothes for the final day of our marathon.
We ended up being routed through Houston Texas, instead of Chicago, but it got us to San Francisco eventually. A woman that was seated next to Glenn was also victim of this storm related rerouting, but hers was a less convenient alternative. She had originally been flying from Detroit to Chicago to Anchorage, Alaska. She didn’t say where her next leg was booked to, but said she was going to be two days late getting to Alaska.
Thankfully, tempers were kept low key, as the stressed airport staff tried desperately to reroute everyone to their final destinations. One staffer confessed that he hadn’t gone home since the cancellations began, some 36 hours earlier. Bleary eyed, he was still the picture of compassionate efficiency. Glenn made sure that everyone got kudos on the customer ratings form, as he felt so empathetic to the stress that the airport staff was under!
Anna is still trying to comprehend all of the preparations that were perfectly in place for her birthday party. It worked beautifully, as our plans fell gracefully into place. After Paul went to pick her up, we all crowded into Cheryl’s kitchen, out of sight of the entryway. Once we heard her come in, we sent Willa down the hall to greet her with a “happy birthday, GG!”. The garbled two year old linguistic skills really didn’t matter, as it was merely the shock of seeing this little doll toddling towards her that served the purpose.
When Cheryl asked her if she knew who this was, Anna responded without hesitation that it was Willa, her great-granddaughter. “But what is she doing here?”
That was Evan and Claire’s cue to head down the hall as well, with their own birthday wishes. Within moments, Ryan and Carolyn followed in their footsteps, embracing the stunned birthday girl. We gave her a few moments to take all this in before we appeared. THAT was the biggest shock to her, since we had come from California for this auspicious occasion.
Many tears, hugs, and exclamations of surprise were had when we all gathered in the living room. As everyone passed birthday cards to an overwhelmed Anna, there was a constant current of disjointed conversation. A constant flow of Kleenex had her as its final destination. She was understandably overcome with disbelief that we all managed to coordinate our arrivals so beautifully.
After a healthy brunch, we were better able to relax, and anticipate Part Two of the Surprise weekend. Anna had been told that we were asked to stop at Ken’s house on our way out to dinner, so he and Michael could give Anna her birthday present. When we arrived, Anna was sent in first, and gently guided to the dining area by Ken. There, a dozen or more friends and extended family awaited her!
The party that ensued lasted for hours, enabling Michael to set their garden lights to flicker over the guests. The evening was punctuated by Willa, accidentally taking a quick dip in the beautiful pool! Luckily, her Daddy was right there, snatching her out of the water at lightening speed, not even giving her time to react to the chilly dip!
Many, many thanks go to Cheryl and Paul, for hosting us, as well as Ryan and Carolyn. Evan and Claire opted to stay at a nearby motel, so they could better coordinate Willa’s sleep schedule, which is erratic at best. Huge thanks to Ken and Michael for being willing to host a large group of slightly tipsy party guests, plus being willing to hand out sweaters for those of us that felt the evening’s chill! Plus, special thanks to Carolyn, for creating a memory tableau of her last ten years, since her 70th birthday party. She will certainly have many many pictures from this event, to look back over, and remember the thrill of surprise that was her gift, from all of us!