I pulled off the best secret for Steve’s birthday, with an assist from a spunky 83 year old Roger Dahl.
Roger recently awakened to find Steve’s brother Rick dead. Rick was his Dad’s go-to cook, shopper, confidant, security detail and housemate. He had taken care of his Mom during her last struggles with lung cancer and he was Roger’s wing-man. They were planning adventures on Roger’s bucket list: snowmobiling in the mountains, taking a motor home across the US, tooling around on the yacht Roger owns in a partnership. The loss of this everyday, everyplace partner would destabilize anyone. I knew that this was a really bad month, but I figured I would tempt him to risk it all on my cooking. Henry Dahl was just the bait I needed.
Roger is a pretty intrepid dude. He is sad and still somewhat in shock. He has had valve surgery in the last year, and awaits knee surgery. Those little blips did not keep him from boarding a plane to be a secret, special guest for our Faux Dahl Thanksgiving. On Saturday he cruised into our family room as if he had just walked across the street. I have never seen Steve so stunned- totally at a loss for words. Twenty minutes later, precious Henry Dahl- the 4th generation of Dahls in the house- was placed into his Great Grandpa’s arms. It was a moment, I’ll tell you.
Families are complicated. Often from a distance, there are misunderstandings. I am guilty of complicating things at times. But of all the gifts I have received in my life, family reigns supreme. It is my life’s goal to make sure the circle of Dahls has no disconnected links. It was a wonderful weekend, full of shared stories, memories and wisdom. I am hoping that Roger’s not too tired to try it again in December for Christmas. After all, he did not see the Blackhawks play, and he never did the Chicago tour of the kids’ places. He DID have the pleasure of meeting his 4 Grandogs- somewhat underwhelming after Henry- and of watching the Bears beat San Diego. If he heads back in four weeks or so we’ll insulate him from the evils of winter- but after all- he was forged in Minnesota. California has not softened him, it has just made him more selective about the climate he prefers. Henry is like a sun shining- Grandpa Roger was blinded by love. I can work with that!
Before Roger arrived I was jangled. I was not sure he had the energy to do the travel. I am not a good cook. I cannot keep a surprise. As I prepared for my company, I set the table for two phantoms- I could not even count. I schlepped all the table boards down, fished 10 chairs out of the corners of the house….only to have the boys remind me that we would be 8. I sent Steve Happy Birthday wishes on Facebook a day early. Mike declared me officially old. I cooked 5 pounds of mashed potatoes, roasted a 19 pound bird, and had enough stuffing for the Pilgrims. We had lovely elbow room, and lots of leftovers. My Thanksgiving is officially over, and a success.
Roger is back in LA, and we miss him already. It is inspiring to see him navigate the paperwork and the emotional work he has to confront. They make them sturdy in Minnesota. I hope our little Chicago detour reminded him that we are all for one, one for all, The Dahls. Good company for the road ahead.
Next up: transforming for Christmas.
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