A Stupendous Surprise

Sometimes a plan comes together…

Holly Deyo
Valentine's Day, 2015

Sometimes a person gets to pull off an epic event that defies the odds. Such was Stan's (surprise) 70th birthday party.

Five months ago, Nate, our #3 son in the line of 4 boys, mentioned in an email that wouldn't it be great to give dad a surprise party for his 70th. After rolling around the possibilities, overcoming major obstacles, that was set aside to see how to make it happen.

Of Stan's 4 sons (and mine by claim), we all live very far apart. Two are in Perth, Australia; one in Shreveport, LA and one in Tyler, TX. The odds of getting everyone here at the same time seemed improbable. They work, have businesses and families to consider. However, some 100 emails and countless phone calls later, that is exactly what happened.

Stan and I rarely feel the need to share personal things, but this was so much fun and nearly unlikely to come together, we want to share this family event.

In December, Nate and Josh, the Perth boys now 35 and 31, booked their flights to arrive mid-day the day before the February party. Since Stan and I work from home, together 24/7, it's difficult to do anything on the sly, especially since his work station faces mine and he can see over my shoulder anything I do. I have no secrets from him and because we have our own server, he can read any of my emails – to or from – at will. But he doesn't. He respects privacy. Consequently, I was at the computer by 4 a.m. for many weeks so we could 'talk' taking in our various time frames and without Stan's knowledge.

After melding together 4 people's divers schedules, the plan slowly came together, minus a few more hurdles.

Photo: The Boys: Josh, Greg, Nate, Jeff on the deck by the chimenea


Fortunately, it's been exceptionally warm and dry (not so good) here, hitting the upper 60's and low 70's for 10 days running, give or take. As a result even as long-time residents here, we got a big dose of 'Colorado nose'. You get hit by dried out sinus cavities that bleed and give you a sore throat.

The morning I was to drive to Colorado Springs (an hour away) to pick up Nate and Josh, I told Stan that I had to go to Emergi-Care to get the nose thing fixed. A couple hours later, he phoned to see if I were OK, because normally it's an in-and-out type visit. THREE HOURS LATER, I told Stan, "Honey, everyone is Pueblo West must be sick. I'm still waiting to get in." He sighed, said "poor thing, OK. If you need something, call."

The boys had just landed and thinking Stan is never going to buy this excuse and there's still an hour an a half to account for. He's going to smell something is bulldust here.

Now if you knew me, you'd know patience is not a strong point. In fact, Stan later said he marveled I hadn't told the doctors to go 'stick it' and marched home, unseen by a physician.

Further complicating matters, Nate and Josh's plane was an hour and a half late. I didn't mind cooling my heels at the airport, but what excuse was going to wash with Stan???

Finally the kids got here – literally the last off the plane – and we screamed back to Pueblo West. Good thing there were no cops around. Foot in the carburetor type thing.


Nate and Josh decided how they wanted to do their surprise on the way home and hid out in the neighbor's pine trees a half block away and rang the door bell 5 minutes later. They wanted to make sure their dad couldn't see them and was completely taken off-guard. At 70, prayed Stan wouldn't have a heart attack. Literally.

To set the stage, we have a large red sparkly Valentine's Day heart on the front storm door. It's about 18" high and the middle is open. So you can peek through the heart and see outside.

Photo: A stunned Stan peers outside through the storm door.

While I dragged beer coolers upstairs for the party, I asked Stan to get the door. He's thinking privately, she's going up there, can't SHE see what's up?

Grudgingly he answers the door and shared his immediate thoughts: Here are 2 salesmen, why are they on their cells?

In a micro-second, he peers through the heart and thinks, why are Nate and Josh here, they don't belong here, they should be in Perth… Well duh, honey… (snicker, snicker)

Stan jerks open the door and is floored to see his Aussie boys. There are no words amidst the hugs and kisses and hellos. It had been since 2006 that we'd seen Nate and Thanksgiving 2013 for Josh.

It was some 30 minutes later when Stan recovers himself and pulls me aside in the hall asking, Are Greg and Jeff coming, too?

Acting annoyed so not to break out grinning, I respond, Be glad you have 2 of your kids here; the others have to work.

Stan took it in stride and was immediately caught up in seeing his youngest.

While we got them settled in, the bell rang again. At the door is some stranger in a baseball cap with a spread-out paper map hiding his face. Greg says in a Louisiana twang, I'm looking for PuABLO West, can you help me?

Stan nearly fell over for the second time that day and enfolded Greg in a huge hug. And then came Greg's girlfriend, Sydney, whom we adore, and 2 of the grandkids kids. (We now have 15 – 13 grandkids and 2 great grandkids.)

After the 4 of them settle in, we start dinner. As grillmaster, Greg is up for filet duty. Hours go by and Jeff who was supposed to be here by 6 p.m. – is very late. His Garmin failed and put him some 45 minutes away. Stan still had no clue his first-born was coming too.

Photo: When Greg, his third son arrives, Stan admits laughing, "OK, you got me!"

When Jeff shows up, Stan is nearly done-for as all 4 of his boys have arrived for his birthday.

Now flash backward a little bit …

With our 8 best friends here, we get together at least once a month for dinner at our homes. We all take turns hosting parties, but see each other nearly every other day as we live close and are always turning up at each other's homes within walking distance.

So our besties all brought food to the party. JoAnne loaned us an air mattress, fetched 7 dozen dinner rolls and took delivery of Stan's b-day cake, so he had no idea. No clue. A true surprise ensued.

Because Stan has his head buried in science most of the time, he took little notice that I cooked tons of food in advance for days on end, moved furniture, brought up piles of pillows, sheets, blankets, bedrolls and extra bedding. He thought it was just for our normal dinner party. Really?


Everybody in the family was assigned a task. Greg's kids, Darren and Danielle, were assigned balloon and streamer duty. This was no small thing as Danielle cut and curled literally hundreds of "ribbon confetti" not shown here. Didn't know there was even such a thing. They didn't just do the dining room, but the kitchen, deck, great room and outside. Greg filled the b-day balloons with helium. We all put up tons of decorations, signs, set up tables, chairs and attended to a bunch of details.

Photo: Grandkids and Sydney just starting in the dining room. They had the rest of the house
to decorate, inside and out.

Everybody pitched in. It took the 8 of us to fully decorate and prepare for that night's party, working the entire day.

Let me reiterate that Stan thought it was our normal dinner hosting party for 10. Not 25. OK, and now there's the kids – and other friends. This was the card made by our 8 besties along with a marvelous gift basket filled with wine and all sorts of lovely things. OK, yes there was no time for make-up! Gotta go with what you got.

Photo: Holly and Stan holding his signed b-day card from our 8 best friends – the 4 couples from our dinner group.

By 6 p.m. all 25 guests had arrived. Stan was shaken to his core. He was so appreciative – and (he-he – unsuspecting. Nope, don't feel guilty one bit!)

It took every one of our friends and of course family, to bring it together and it came off without a hitch.

Since when does that ever happen?

Photo: Our party theme was Vintage Dudethe Man, the Myth, the Legend. Stan was all embarrassed by that, but that's how we see him, head of family, and are so tired of the boring 'Over the Hill' birthday party theme. This was a little portion of his party and Darren, his grandson, worked his buns off assigned to figuring candles and holders. That was no small task! It was was new to him. Told Darren to go find what he needed in the loft. Take whatever. He kept saying, "Grandma, can I use this, can I have that?"

"There are no 'mistakes', Darren, do what you like; make it beautiful'.

He raided everything and made it happen and had dozens of candles everywhere. Our home was FULL of soft candlelight and he made it work. Full stop! Great job! Darren is going to make some woman a GREAT thoughtful husband! LOVE that!

Always in a gathering there is some thing that goes amiss, at least a little thing. But this was flawless. In fact, the whole week was… well, perfect.

At the party, we went through 3 gallons of margaritas (yes, I do share the recipe!), 5 cases of beer and more than a few bottles of wine and a TON of food. Everyone was within walking distance and though we had an extra 7 bodies here for sleeping, should there had been someone over the limit and driving, we'd have kept them here. It was a special time to relax and forget all of the extraneous daily affairs.

There has never been a time such as this in our family nor will there likely be that opportunity again. It was a gift…

Photo: Josh, Nate, Stan, Jeff, Greg Deyo

The day after Stan's party, Greg had to drive home some 12 hours away, with kids in tow. He wanted to be on the road by 6 a.m. and still at 8:30 we were in the midst of taking over 400 family photos. While snapping these pics for 3 hours, we laughed so hard our wrinkles now have wrinkles! Cheeks ached from Deyo antics, clever quips and one-liners. All Deyo boys have a tremendous sense of humor, but if one outshines them all, it is Greg. They come fast and hard. He really should sell his business and do stand-up comedy. He'd be rich and could support the rest of us! If you can cite a gift(s) in the Deyo family it is that of smarts, forgiveness and humor.

Without boring you guys ad nauseam with personal details, I'll just state that we had the best week EVER. We talked, shared till throats were dry and raw. We ate out, ate in. Saw movies of importance, like the Atlas Shrugged trilogy and American Sniper again. These boys are our heritage and future. Talked about 'life, death and the universe', as Stan says. We relaxed and yet crammed in every moment with specialness – as much as time allowed. Every single second was precious. Irreplaceable.

In the days following, we took our sons to USAFA – the Air Force Academy, shopping, to the mountains for epic snow ball fights and did the mundane that makes up daily life. It is a time we will never forget…

Photo: Josh, Nate in a snowball fight – and after, in clear blue beautiful Colorado azure skies.
Keep in mind, that Nate and Josh rarely see snow in Australia.

As I said, not much for sharing our personal life. Don't do Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Tumblr or Instagram. But sometimes something happy, really special comes along, so we're sharing – with you.

Views best with "River Dance"

It was simply THE BEST DAY, no, WEEK of our life. Rockin' on with the fam.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Holly Drennan Deyo is the author of three books: bestseller Dare To Prepare (5th ed.), Prudent Places USA (4th ed.) and Garden Gold (2nd ed.) Please visit she and her husband's website: standeyo.com and their FREE Preparedness site: DareToPrepare.com.

Other articles by Holly Deyo