Dad recently celebrated his 60th birthday and we gathered with friends and family to celebrate. My two older brothers Scott and Derek and myself gave speeches as part of the festivities. Here is Scott's speech in its entirety. I'll try to track down Derek's speech as well. Enjoy.
It all started approximately 11 years ago. The big bash. It was my Mom and Dad’s 25 year wedding anniversary. It was a big celebration – and something well worth celebrating. We had a great time – friends, family, food, singing, speeches, poems. Accolades of praise for the wonderful couple, that all who attended, knew and loved. A beautiful evening.
A short while later the family got together for a time of reflection. We watched the video tape of that evening. Spirits were high. People were excited for the evening that was, by all accounts, a rousing success. Immediately plans for the next big celebration were under way. What are we going to do for the 30th wedding anniversary? Ideas were spit-balled. Would we be able to pull off another evening like the one we just had? Probably. But was it practical? No. People can only hear so much good about one couple, before they begin to feel nauseated. Then my mother had the most brilliant idea of all. Some might even say the most brilliant idea she has ever had. We would do a trip. We would need to hammer out the details, but it would either be a cruise, or a house-boat, or a trip down south, but something real nice. Dad remained rather quiet about the whole thing, while the children leaped about in apparent jubilation.
In the years that followed the dynamics of our family changed some. Derek got married. I got married. We began to be fruitful; and we multiplied as we were instructed to do so in Genesis 1:28. Next Becky got married, then Ally, then Greg. More children were had. But all the while, we kept that trip that we had discussed, in the front of our minds. It was going to be awesome. We reminded Mother of it often, but the closer we drew to the date, the more Mom was seemed to be skirting around the idea. We would be together for Sunday lunch and someone would say, “Hey Mom, I’ve been giving our trip that you promised us a lot of thought and I think we should go down south and rent a house in Florida!” And my Mom would say, “yeahhhhh. That sounds like it would be a nice time…” Oh, we were so excited.
And then, the 30th wedding anniversary came and went and then so did the 35th. Both with very little hoopla or fanfare. Neither was ever properly celebrated as far as the immediate family was concerned. Where was our trip? Where was our quality time? What happened to the promise that was made to us on that fateful day? When confronted on this, we heard number of different excuses, such as, “well the families have gotten too big” or “we didn’t know at the time what kind of people Becky and Ally would be bringing along with them and the thought of being trapped on a boat or in the same cottage with Shawn and Jake for an extended period of time…”. Don’t get me wrong. These are valid excuses. But I am still disappointed that this trip, which had been planned in my head and heart for ten years, that was going to be awesome, never happened. And now we are here once more; celebrating a milestone in style, but in a very local setting. It was during this setting, that all along I was planning on doing a beautiful narrated slide show all about our family outing. Now obviously I can’t do that anymore, but I have to contribute something to celebrate the milestone that we are gathered here together to commemorate.
So I did what any other sane person in my position would have done. I pictured in my mind, a parallel universe that exists in which the Slingerland family all went together on the vacation of a lifetime. Now I am going to use this platform that I have available to me, to tell you all about that vacation, through the magic of Journal Entries that were completed on a daily basis during our fictional trip. I think this coping mechanism would probably make Arlene Veenstra very proud and more importantly it would make Boot proud too.
Day One. We arrived in Greece right on schedule. The flight was wonderful. The stewardess said she had never before seen such a beautiful family and decided to bump us all up into first class. Thank goodness Derek hadn’t boarded the plane yet or she probably would never have offered it. Next the pilot introduced himself to our family and asked what the occasion was. I explained to him that this was the celebration of my parents’ 30th and 35th Wedding Anniversary and my father’s 60th birthday! “Wow” he said. “What a wonderful family. The Vontraps got nothing on you guys!” He then proceeded to the cockpit and over the intercom informed everybody about the milestones we were celebrating; after which the whole plane broke into singing “For he’s a jolly good fellow!”
Day Two. Well Greece is beautiful. Our trip to the Parthenon was magical. Our dinner at the famed Milos Estiatorio Costal Restaurant was extremely pleasing to the pallet for most of the family. Dad on the other hand was unable to locate hot dogs or chicken fingers anywhere on the menu and settled for a Greek Salad minus the Feta Cheese and Greek dressing. Thankful Mom had packed a bottle of French dressing and Dad still enjoyed the view. After such a beautiful day I hardly want to leave this beautiful country. This is a good time for me to reflect on how nice it was that Jake and Shawn were willing to stay home and watch all of the grandkids. I’m sure they are having a nice time too. I am almost beginning to think that the flight ticket miscount by Mom was intentional. You know what they say, “Oh well”.
Day Three. I can’t believe we are actually in Rome. Highlights included seeing the coliseum and having a personal visit from the Pope Francis - during which Greg had an opportunity to debate Luther’s 95 theses. Pope Francis bid us farewell after he told us he certainly had a lot to think about. Dad said that Italy had among the best cheese-less pizza he had ever tried. After skyping Shawn and Jake back home we learned that they are dealing with a bit of a diarrhea outbreak and they are running low on diapers. They are hoping that the blizzard that is keeping them housebound, eases up soon. Jake is busy researching ways to make your own cloth diapers with household items. Spirits still seem pretty high.
Day Four. We arrived in Spain right on schedule in my imaginary itinerary. I found our museum trip a little boring. The curator was droning on and on about boring and insignificant Spanish history. Greg noted that they really had nothing when compared to our own rich Canadian history. Things were just started to get interesting, but we got kicked out when Derek knocked over a Conquistador armour display. It was probably for the best anyways. Courtney said she was feeling a little nauseous and needed to see a doctor. They are running some tests. We skyped back in with Shawn and Jake back home, or as they refer to it, rash central. Apparently the satellite went down during the snow storm. They said that is OK because they are a little preoccupied dealing with the chicken pox outbreak anyways.
Day Five. Courtney got her test results back today. I don’t know if you would refer to them as negative or positive, but she is expecting quadruplets. We are off to Holland now. The whole family seems to be pretty excited about it except Greg and Courtney. They just seem to be walking around in a bit of a haze. Greg walked into a pole earlier and apologized. The Pole told Greg his name was Bart Kawolski and he wasn’t too upset. Needless to say, the whole family was riding pretty high from the news. Dad seemed the most excited, but I think that may have been more due to the fact that he was finally going to a country where he would actually be able to eat. I had never been to Holland, but Dad says there is a place in Amsterdam that makes the best brownies he has ever had. I can’t wait to try them. After arriving in Holland, we settled in and checked with Jake and Shawn before bed. They seemed somewhat dishevelled. I’m assuming this is due to the power outage. Thankfully, they were able to locate 4 scented candles. Jake say that if everyone is huddled together in one room, it is actually quite warm. Shawn didn’t have much to say, unless you count those whimpering sounds he was making while huddled in the corner. Seems like they are having quite an adventure!
Day Six. We spent most of today riding our bicycles and visiting family. Dutch bingo reaches a whole new level of insanity when your are standing the very country for which it is named. Dad vetoed the Gouda cheese tour we all wanted to go on (citing immediate onset nausea). Instead, we took a trip to Holland’s national zoo. We were asking for directions to get to the zoo, but the person we found didn’t speak too much English. After describing and gesturing a typical zoo with all the animals and such as best we could, he seemed to understand what we were looking for. Then he gave us directions to Friesland. Still, very interesting. Needless to say, Derek fit right in. After this we wandered around visiting the typical Netherlands sights. We saw where Chapmans makes there Dutch chocolate ice cream. We saw Double Dutch skipping ropes being manufactured. We finished by going to a Dutch Oven convention. Not recommended.
Day Seven. We decided to check in with Shawn and Jake before we leave for the last two weeks of our trip to be spent in Australia. The good news is power has been restored. The bad news is Shawn and Jake seem to have lost theirs. Shawn was only able to whisper to us while hiding out under the bed. The kids have Jake tied up in the basement. Shawn says the kids keep referring to Jake as “Piggie”. We decided as a family to cut our vacation short. We still had a great time and I for one can’t wait until our next imaginary vacation.
Now I know what you are thinking. What did any of this have to do with Dad’s 60th birthday? I would have to say, that some of my best memories of growing up were of our time spent with Dad on vacations. There were the trips to the cottage, the fishing trips, our trips to Myrtle Beach, our trip to Prince Edward Island. All beloved memories and all non-fiction. In fact I probably should have done my whole speech on what it was really like vacationing with Dad. Well maybe I’ll write about our next family trip at your 70th birthday, Dad. Happy Birthday Pops.