Parental milestones witnessed and mishandled from afar

My parents have experienced a lot of milestones lately.

This has been an interesting thing to witness because my parents were always younger than the parents of my friends growing up. They were high school sweethearts like Jack and Diane, except for all the other terrible stuff in that song, like that part about suckin’ on chili dogs, which is the worst phrase I have ever heard. My mom had my older sister when she was … 22? 23? I forget how old my sister is.

My mom turned 60 last year. We had a big party and everything, albeit three months after her actual birthday because we couldn’t get our crap together. Also, I was not even there because I live in Arizona and couldn’t really afford to fly there. I did, however, send money for the alcohol, so I was kind of the hero of the party when you really think about it.

Then my parents celebrated 40 years of marriage in February. This was an extra special deal because I’m pretty certain my sisters and I did nothing for them on their 25th wedding anniversary. See, that’s the thing about them being too young—when they celebrated 25 years of marriage, I was 19 years old and couldn’t have cared less about anyone but myself. I thought being in college was a free pass to shirk all my other responsibilities as a human being. My sisters should have propped me up as usual, but they didn’t. I’m not even sure if I sent a card. Hopefully my parents had a great time. If they had waited a little longer to have kids, I may have been mature enough to do something to help make their 25th anniversary special, so that was pretty much their fault.

The point is, we tried to do something special for them this time around. We found out what restaurant they were going to after a day spent seeing a Broadway show in NYC, and I called the restaurant and arranged a special table, bottle of bubbly, and the meal was on us kids. My parents, however, had not made a reservation, so the restaurant staff would have to identify them, and I helped in this matter by sending a picture. I also sent a heartfelt note from us that the server would read to them over this undoubtedly romantic meal. In what has come to be known as a typical “Kenny-planned situation,” no one at the restaurant recognized them and nothing special happened. My dad thinks it’s possible they weren’t recognized from the picture because he’s since lost 17 pounds thanks to a new technological device he wears all day long that processes calories.

Of course, because they are awesome and sweet and forgiving, they weren’t disappointed and were ecstatic about the mere thought and effort. Besides, they had a gift card to the restaurant anyway that matched the exact amount of their meal, which pleased my dad to no end. Taking that opportunity away from him would have been terrible, so it all kind of worked out?

Speaking of my dad, now he turns sixty this week, completing this trifecta of parental milestones. It’s uncertain how my family and I will botch this occasion—I recommended a “60 and still burnin’ calories”-themed party where there is exercise and no one eats anything—but I have already sent the appropriate funds, so my hands are clean.

In all seriousness, it’s tough being in Arizona when special occasions like this happen for my parents, who sacrificed so darn much for us growing up. They are amazing people and my sisters and I are extremely blessed. If anyone reading this has parents like mine, then you are extremely blessed, too. Love you, mom and dad.

Note: This column appears in the 3/21 issue of The Glendale Star and the 3/22 issue of the Peoria Times.