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A promise that became a 52-year birthday tradition to honor dear old Dad

By: Keith Kappes
Carter County Times

It started in July 1971 when my wife and I returned from eloping to celebrate our surprise marriage with my parents.

Mother was unhappy because she didn’t have the opportunity to be part of another traditional wedding like those of my older brother and younger sister.

As the last child to marry, I was surprised that Mom felt she had been deprived because Janet and I chose to have a private ceremony witnessed by the minister and his wife and two other friends.

The tension finally eased and, as we finished lunch with my folks, Mom insisted on having Janet promise to continue the tradition of making sure that my birthday on Dec. 23 would never get lost in the swirl of Christmas activities. That included a solemn commitment to cook my favorite meal and buy a few gifts.

It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time so we both laughed and gave our word that my birthdays would be celebrated in keeping with Mom’s wishes and that she would be invited to each birthday event.

We followed her plan to the letter until her death in 1986. At that point, I suggested to Janet and our eight kids that we did not need to continue my celebration, especially because we didn’t make a big deal out of Janet’s.

To my surprise, the kids insisted that we continue with “Dad’s Party” because it had become a family tradition. In fact, it has gotten silly at times with expensive gifts and an all-day gathering.

This year will be the 52nd observance of my birthday extravaganza and we will gather about 30 relatives and friends here at home to eat meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, red Jello with fruit cocktail, peas, homemade rolls, and cherry pie.

Last year I began seriously questioning whether my party had gotten out of hand and if I was being selfish by letting it continue. That was after we rented the Morehead Conference Center and celebrated my 80th birthday despite the area’s first blizzard.

Then, as now, I realize that I won’t be here forever and that this rowdy bunch eventually will have Dec. 23 as an open date for the rest of their lives.

(Contact Keith at keithkappes@gmail.com)



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