When my father was turning 73 in 1999, my brother and sister-in-law had the idea to throw him a surprise birthday party. It was a little last minute. All of his sisters weren’t sure they could make it, so we gave some thought to waiting until the next year to have more time to plan. But, in the end, we went ahead with the party.
Somehow we managed to keep it a surprise. Oh, he knew there was a party. But he thought it was our annual family birthday party for him and my nephew whose birthday is a week after his.
I made this picture seconds after Daddy rounded the side of my brother’s house and saw everyone in the backyard. Any cars that would have given away the surprise were hidden on the other side of the house. He really had no clue anything different was going on until he saw the crowd.
David Hankins McCauley, born 12 Jul 1926 in Greenville, Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, was the ninth of eleven children of John William McCauley and Verda Waller Hankins. By the time he was turning 73, five of his siblings (three brothers and two sisters) were deceased. He was the last of the four boys in the family, and none of them had lived to 73.
Over 50 people attended the party, including all five sisters who traveled 200 miles to celebrate his birthday. Fifteen nieces and nephews and their spouses, three sisters-in-law, three great-nieces and nephews, and several friends made it, too. And, of course, all 13 of “us” (Mom, their 4 children, 7 grandchildren, and one daughter-in-law) were there.
The party was a huge success. Since most of the family from out of town spent the night, the party continued on Sunday with church, lunch, and a little more socializing before everyone headed home.
I will be forever grateful that we didn’t wait until next year, because next year did not come for Daddy.
He would have been 90 today.
Revised from a post originally published in 2011.