Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My 80th Birthday Suprise Party (April 13, 14, 15 2013)

 My 80th Birthday Suprise Party (April 13, 14, 15 2013)


Table of Contents

1- Prologue 1

2- Saturday April 13th 1

3- Sunday April 14th 6

4- Monday April 15th 8

5- Tuesday April 16th 10

6- March 10, 11, 12 11

7- Wrap Up 11



1- Prologue

I was expecting a nice leisurely weekend for my 80th birthday. Nothing special, nothing significant. Patty said something about maybe going out to dinner sometime with my local brothers, but that was about it. Just another birthday, add another year. Although 8 is my favorite number so I might look at it slightly different . . . 8 years, 18 years . . . . . 78 years etc. Can’t hardly wait for 88. 88 means ‘love and kisses’ in Morse code language.

I am gong to try to write this as I was experiencing it. I will talk about the shenanigans that were going on behind my back in the last chapter (7 Wrap up).

If anyone thinks I missed anything significant, please let me know and I may update this story.

All of my pictures are at

2- Saturday April 13th

On Saturday morning, like any other morning a nice morning walk in the woods with my dogs Brandy (border collie) and Sport (westie). They love to go on the morning walk in the woods. Just a normal walk the woods. Unbeknownst to me the start of something totally unexpected.

The Beginning

1st - I did not have a clue that it any of this was coming or going to happen

2nd- After I did the chores I went on my usual morning walk with Brandy and Sport

I did not walk the pasture part as it was wet,

So I just walked the woods part

As I walked part of the woods I came to the split in the trail

Figure 1 Trail to Left or Right

Where I usual go left by the Huber Cabin (I call it)

But a tree had blown down across that part of the trail beyond the cabin and I had not taken my chain saw out to cut it yet

So I headed straight to go down the hill

I heard someone talking and noticed someone sitting in the corner of the Huber Cabin with a white hat and red jacket

Figure 2 Sport checking out he "Huber Cabin" to the Left

I had NEVER seen anyone on the trail before, however there is no reason someone could not be there.

So, I assumed they were talking on their cell phone and not wanting to bother them, did not go over

I gave a little wave and headed down the hill

Figure 3 Down the Hill to the Right

At the bottom I heard one of the dogs, Sport I think, give a bark

I figured I had better go back up and check things out

So went back up the hill and over towards the cabin

I hollered 'Hello there"

3 guys came out of the 'cabin'

Immediately recognized as son's Tom (Canton NC), Jeff (Terrebonne OR), Bruce (Bemidji MN)

I just about died, I was stunned, I was flabbergasted, I was numb

I stood there dumbfounded, as I tried to think of something smart to say or do

The only thing I could come up with was

To fall down clutching my chest.......

They came over and we all hugged of course

What an absolute total surprise for me.....

. . . . . Little did I know at the time - the party had started :) :)


My sons picked up their car, Tommy walked back to the house with me. Bruce and Jeff had arrived in the car. We talked for a while then they wanted to go shopping then over to the Tortuga Inn, where they had stayed Friday night. Tom and Jeff had airplained into O’Hare, Bruce and Ruth had driven down from Bemidji, MN.

The boys explained to me that Patty had called them on the cell when she saw me leave for my walk "the Target is on the move" she reported. That was their key. Patty had asked me before she left, if I was going on my walk that morning. Of course I was. Why is she asking? I should have suspected something then. She NEVER asks me if I am going on my walk. But it went right past me.

They wanted to go shopping before going to the Tortuga Inn. So we went to the local grocery store in Winamac. They were buying (and me) seemingly horrendous amounts of stuff, beer, wine, soda, chips, etc. Why in the hell are you buying all that? "We will be staying a while and will need it". We ran into Niece Carrie in the liquor section of the drug store and everyone got excited again. Especially checking out the Tito Hand Crafted Vodka. We didn’t buy it though. Finally we got to the Tortuga Inn.

The Tortuga Inn,, is an extremely neat B&B NE of Winamac buried along the Tippecanoe River, on the back side of a Horse ‘farm’. Gordon is the man in charge, usually. A very neat person. His wife drives a semi all over the country. We had used his facility before and have always enjoyed it. He is an artist. The place is LOADED with art. It is a great place to stay. Just one example-

Figure 4 Just some of the Art

Bruce’s wife Ruth was there. We socialized for a while then left to go visiting some of the near by relatives and niece Angies Refind, consignment store. Golfers Jeff and Bruce made arrangements to go golfing at 8AM Sunday morning with their cousin Alan. Then back to our house for some more socializing.

Now we were; Me, Patty, Tommy, Jeff, Bruce Ruth, 6 of us.

We finally headed back over to the Tortuga. The premise was that we would have some pizza from Tippy’s for dinner, some of the local relatives may come over, we would drink some beer some wine and play our standard card game, Horse Euchre. Just enough of us for a nice game of 6 handed Euchre.

Saturday at the Tortuga Inn

1st let me say that, Gordon lets us use the dinning room for ‘gatherings, small festivities, etc’, as long as there are not a lot of other guests. And there were no others at this time. My kids had 3 rooms.

We sat around the dining tables and had some beers, wine and talking, having fun. Then. . . . more people started showing up, And more people – nephews, nieces, brothers, sisters in law, from nearby, from Greenwood (South of Indianapolis - a 100+ miles). Presents and cards started showing up. Then Patty shows up with a ‘truck load’ of Pizza’s from Tippy’s. Beer started flowing the wine started flowing, it was getting to be a big shindig. I was in awe. Totally surprised. What hell is going on? But of course by then I was starting to realize this was more than just a little get together. Later I counted about 22 people.

As I mentioned, the Tortuga is loaded with art. There is a very high backed artsy chair at the head of the table. I was forced to sit in it.

 Figure 5 Sitting in the Head Chair

I was becoming the target of happy birthdays, insults, greetings, ribbing, etc etc. etc.

We started eating the Pizza and maybe opening some presents…which included all kinds of stuff, vodka, beer, wine, honey, obnoxious coffee cups, crazy cards, etc.. With cheering and laughing.

Then- someone comes from behind with a big hug . . . . my little brother Earl from Brookline (Boston) MA, had come all the way to cheer me on. He is also the favorite Uncle of my kids, nieces and nephews. Holy cow, things are really big time now.

Everyone got done, pretty much, snacking on the pizza and the refreshments.

Then these 3 ZZ Top characters come in, dancing and lip synching to a recording.

Figure 6 The 'ZZ Tops' entering
Of course you could not see their lips as they were covered with their beards. They wanted hugs etc from me…

Figure 7 Are they realy real?

They turned out to be my brothers Carl, John, Earl. They started ribbing me about my life. All the problems I gave them, me the oldest and they got all the hand me downs. While I got all the new stuff. I took the 1st bath in the galvanized bath tub in the kitchen, the 1st with clean, warm water. They took their baths after me, Earl being last, got the dirty cold water. The 5 farms we lived on prior to coming to Winamac. Talking about the 6 schools I went to prior to coming to Winamac early spring of 1950. The 1 room 8 grade school house I started 1st grade in. The history of our lives as mom and dad struggled out of the depression, by share cropping before buying the 190 acre farm ENE of Winamac. Mostly humorous but some serious..

After these festivities we started playing the standard card game, played at all of our reunions and gatherings- 6 handed horse euchre. About 3 tables going with all kinds of boisterous shouting and crying and accusations etc. Finally winding down at about 1 AM. Brother John and Diane and Earl had picked up rooms so now we (they) had 5 rooms. I decided to stay with Jeff, rather than go home. Leaving Patty to do the chores. \

How many people were there, here is the ‘sign in list’ that I asked people to sign.

Bruce, Ruth, Jeffe, Tommy A, Kevin, Drew, Jeff, Julie, Carl, Jerry, Al, John, Cody, Earl, Matt, Becky G, Judy, Diane, Carrie, Patty. Sara, Derrick, Max (did I miss anyone?).

3- Sunday April 14th

Up at 7AM to help Jeff and Bruce get going to be at Moss Creek with Alan for golfing by 8AM. They seemed a little slow. Gordon had made us coffee and later his usual good breakfast. Jeff and Bruce must have done pretty well as they were bragging about how much money they made at the golf course.

By about noon we were enough recovered to leave and go out to the house. Patty had some soup for us for lunch. We walked the trail. I showed how Bruce, Jeff, and Tom had surprised me. We talked about the old days, Moms Bench on the west side of the pines where she would take a walk, sit on the little 2x6 bench and look, to the west, over the fields, the roads and the river bank of trees in the distance.. Also I complained again about Tommy Alan knocking down the big ‘Elephant’ tree just because it was rotting. Pointed out the area where Carl Freeman had his Christmas Trees. Dad had sold him Carl F’s area from the farm acreage in about the 1950’s or so, with the agreement that the family could take Christmas trees from him. So we (families) did that for many years. After thanksgiving dinner walk, usually through the woods covered with snow, pick out our tree(s) and carry them back through the woods. We did this for many years.

After a little rest in the afternoon,

Figure 8 At rest at our house


Patty fed us again, chili. My stomach was upset for some reason (I wonder why, from Saturday night?), so I could tell it was chili all that night. We loaded up with odds and ends and went back over to the Tortuga. More snacks and stuff and more cards. I had my camera this time so took a couple pictures.

Figure 9 The Horse Euchre game is underway

Figure 10  Bruce, Ruth, TomEA, Jeff, Tommy Alan

This was an early night compared to Saturday night wrapping up about midnight.

4- Monday April 15th

Monday morning, my birthday, several wanted to go to Vicky’s, in Winamac, for Biscuits and Gravy. Bruce and Ruth Checked out, as they needed to head home.

Figure 11 Loaded up to head north to the snow country

They were checking the wx diligently as there was lots of snow in northern MN and more snow on the way. Gordon’s wife, Lee, was also providing wx updates from driving her semi in North Dakota. We invited Gordon to go with us, to Vicky’s, Carl and Julie showed up so we filled up the table at Vicky’s.
Figure 12 Jeff is hungry 

I don’t think Jeff is having biscuits and gravy. After breakfast Bruce and Ruth took off, heading home. They made it ok. Lots of snow but roads had been cleared.

We went back to the Tortuga to check out. Jeff did quite a bit of running. He ran from the Tortuga to our house on Saturday, about 4+ miles, from our house back to the Tortuga, about 7+ miles, from the Tortuga to Vicky’s via a short part of the Panhandle Pathway, then back to the Tortuga. He had a hard time leaving the Tortuga as he was diligently watching the Boston Marathon. He was all signed up to run the Marathon in 2011, for his 50th Birthday year, but he injured his leg so did not make it.

We finally got together at the house. Ate some left over’s for lunch and relaxed. Although Tom and Earl did get enough ambition to clean up the downed tree stuff, resulting from the storm just before our 2012 July Reunion. I had not got around to it yet. Jeff left a little after noon, heading to O’Hare on his way home to Terrebonne OR.

Of course we started hearing the sad and terrible news of the Boston Marathon explosion in the afternoon. The historic Church that Earl belongs to in Boston was just past the race end on Boylston Street. He was concerned about fellow members as they like to watch the end of the race. …Jeff said he started hearing it on the radio as he was nearing the airport. A sad occasion that will forever mark my 80th birthday.

John & Diane, Carl & Julie came over later. We started the campfire up, burning lots of wood.

 Figure 13 Getting the fire going at our house

There is still plenty more. Patty fed us some pulled pork, and birthday cake for dinner. Then another horse game. This was probably close to a record for the record books. The losers, the We’s -193 points (John, Julie, Earl) wound up with  and the winners the They’s +5 points (TomE, Diane, Carl) . 

5- Tuesday April 16th

Tuesday morning after breakfast we (Tom, Earl, Me) went into town. Went out to the cemetery to visit mom and dads grave, then to the town park across the swinging bridge. Meandered around town some then back home.

Figure 14 Visitng mom and dad's grave

Figure 15.16 The Family Bench in the Winamac Town Park

Earl and Tom left about 1 pm heading to South Bend Airport for O’Hare. Tom to Canton NC, Earl to Brookline MA.

Figure 17 The last 2 to leave

Figure 18 and there they go



It was after this that I wrote my "it is hitting me" email . . . .

Tommy and Earl just left

Heading back to Canton NC and Brookline MA

And it is hitting me

How just phenomenally GREAT it was

This past 3 days..... sat, sun, mon, etc.

it seemed so long

it seem so short

To see everyone

And such a surprise

I think my heart is recovering.....

Such a great birthday celebration

Thank you Patty

And thank you every one else

The rubber band is stretching tight

and it will take a while to break

I promise to collect the pictures and put them on my shutterfly site

and write the story

Tom E Anspach Thankyou all so much..


After Tommy and Earl left, the entire weekend seemed to be like a dream, a vision. Could it have really happened. But of course it did happen. Taking the time to write this brings back many of the memories. I have probably missed some.

6- March 10, 11, 12

As I went through the April 15th weekend, I was continually missing daughter Marie. Later, Patty and Marie told me that the extravaganza had actually started a month earlier.

About noon on Sunday March 10th, as I was getting ready to back up my computer, I glanced up and my Grandson Nathan was standing in the doorway. 

Holy cow!, where did you come from? A complete surprise. He is from Juneau AK and is going to Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken NJ studying Chemical Engineering. I was in shock and speechless, except for where did you come from, how did you get here. After a hug there was his mom, daughter Marie, behind him. Nathan was on spring break, and Marie came up with the plan to give me an an early birthday surprise (see below). Again, Patty knew all about it, but I did not have a clue. Nathan took the train from NewYorkCity, Marie flew into Chicago from Juneau AK. She drove down and picked Nathan up at the Amtrak station in South Bend.

Figure 19 Welcome Marie and Nathan

We had a very enjoyable visit. Monday while I went to an orientation for a possible Census Surveying job (I have since ‘resigned’) in Monterey. They were able to find a swimming pool in Plymouth. Nathan is a swimmer and on the Stevens swim team. We visited nearby relatives, walked my woods trail and Marie and Nathan 'ran' the Panhandle Pathway from the TRBridge to the 250S trail head. Using the term 'ran' loosely :)
Figure 20 The Panhandle Pathway

Nathan needed a suit for a visit with an industry gathering at school. We went to Refind and they were able to find everything Nathan needed. Suit, tie, shirt, shoes….. Nathan looked pretty sharp. 
Figure 21 Nathan looking sharp at Refined

They left on Tuesday afternoon, for Chicago where Marie, via air, headed back to Juneau and Nathan, via Amtrak, headed back to Hoboken.

7- Wrap Up

It is a good thing that Marie and Nathans visit was a month before the Bruce Ruth Jeff Tommy visit as I may not have been able to withstand these 2 surprise visits any closer together. I new Marie and Brian had sold their house and were moving into another house in Juneau during April. After everyone had left (Tuesday) and I was talking to Marie and Patty they explained to me that since Marie could not come to the April 15 gathering she planned the March 10th surprise visit. I do not recall that being mentioned at the time, and of course they could not mention it or the April 15th surprise would be in peril.

Patty was continually suggesting that get my hair cut and bear trim as I was looking a little scruffy. Also I should clean my junk off of the dining room table. Usually this is a warning that someone might be coming to visit. I wasn’t very motivated to do either. I should have suspected something the Saturday morning the 13th.. Patty, was heading into town to pick up a prescription 'she said', and she asked me as I was starting to head for my walk "you aren't walking this morning are you... inclement weather?" It was only cloudy, no rain .no snow ..??? why is she asking me that? She NEVER asks me anything about going on my morning walk. "Sure I said I am heading for the woods, by pass the pasture as there is probably water on it from the rain."

Later I find out she is calling my Son to say "the target is on the move". And it turned out she was headed to Francesville, meeting my local brother Carl and Julie there and picking up this humongous birthday cake from a small bakery.

Figure 22 The BIG Birthday Cake (delicious)

My brother took the cake to the Tortuga Inn and stored in daughter in law Ruth’s room till Saturday night. My sons parked their car in Carl Freeman’s woods south of my woods trail where I could not see it. Then they walked back into the woods to intercept me, which they did a tremendous job of doing.

It turned out Patty and my brothers and Kids had been planning this for months.... and I was too dense to catch any of it. It is impressive about how all of these people kept this secret from me. When I look back on it there were a few slip ups that were quickly recovered. I just never put them all together. I had ignored them.

I had told people that I might load up the little car with my camping stuff and go down to where the Ohio and Mississippi come together and camp for a few days on my birthday. No cell phones, no computers. Just me and nature. Of course they probably knew that I would not do this, but were probably a little worried. The biggest concern that Patty had concerned the internet. We had been having problems with our ISP. The ISP finally gave up. This caused us to switch to Century Link. While I was trying to get her lap top email hooked up she was worried that I would see the numerous messages she had while communicating with my kids and brothers. But, although I saw her long list of messages none of them caught my attention. Fortunately for her.

Also I answered a phone call from Earl a day or so before. He needed to talk to Patty. His cat was feeling really bad, and he needed to consult with the ‘vet’. He was BSIng me from the start as he needed to talk about some details of the next few days.

Bottom line, it was a total surprise to me and certainly a grand party, to be remembered forever. I am now about recovered. Thank you all for a memorable birthday.

In addition to it being my birthday, it was memorable for another reason. On April 15th 2011 we had the memorial service for Brother Ken who had passed away on April 8th, 2011. We did not speak of it, outright, this weekend but it was in all of our minds.
Figure 23  Ken’s memorial tree on the Anspach Memorial Hill





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