Friday, September 9, 2011

One surprise after another

September 6th part two

Now where was I? Yes, the day was only half done, and I was exhausted. The only keys left in my possession were to our rental car, safety deposit box and our storage locker!

The apartment was empty, but our car was once again full to the rafters with luggage and stuff we might need after the car trip. After a great lunch with Sheila and a trip to Shaw to return phone and Internet equipment, I couldn’t face the drive to Richmond by myself (We would be staying with friends Keith and Lori for two nights). That meant unloading the car myself and I was looking for an excuse to postpone that at all costs.

So here’s the scoop. A week ago, Marc was cc’ed on an email in error. It was from one of his colleagues, sending regrets for his retirement “surprise” party. The email detailed the party time and place and to kindly rsvp and specified that is was a surprise, so don’t mention it to Marc! The party was that afternoon between 4:00 and 6:00. As of that morning, I had not been notified about the party and no one had officially invited Marc or scheduled a meeting of some kind for that time slot. When I called Marc at 3:30, he suggested I come by his office and we would wait to see what happened. Just in case he dressed for the occasion.

Neither of us really knew what was going to happen, but it was the excuse I needed not to drive to Richmond and unload the car! At 4:00 a colleague entered his office and after a casual conversation suggested we walk over to MSAC (where the party was). Marc decided to be coy and asked why? It started to be quite awkward at this point and I suggested we mosey on over to see what was happening.

We entered the courtyard and were met with familiar faces from the last 25 years! I think we were the only one’s that knew that neither of us had been officially invited to Marc’s “Surprise” party, and it really didn’t matter at that point because it was an impressive gathering and we were simply glad to be there (and Marc was quite happy he had on his favourite tie!).

Photos by Joanne Reid

After everyone had a glass of wine in hand, and a selection of the tasty appetizers, the speeches began. Although I managed to get through the stressful first half of the day without a meltdown, the minute Marc’s current boss Karen, began her speech, I was in a puddle of tears. Marc’s first boss, Gordon was next and then it was Marc’s turn to succumb to the emotion of the moment. Many more speeches and tears later, we said our goodbyes to 25 years of service and a very long list of Marc’s accomplishments. I was very touched by so many of the sentiments expressed by his colleagues. But I think the largest compliment bestowed upon him, was his way of doing such innovative and groundbreaking work, quietly and without fanfare. There was a unanimous chorus of “Who will we ask when Marc is no longer here?” and quickly thereafter “We hope you will be back!”

All through the proceedings, I was acutely aware of our next event of the day, which was a dinner with a few friends from our running group in Richmond. We have had this planned for weeks and we were looking forward to a nice evening with friends to unwind and relax. I knew it would not be an issue if we were a bit late, but still, we didn’t want to be rude.

What we didn’t know — was, what we thought was small dinner party — was in fact a much more elaborate surprise party for us — and as we were saying our final goodbyes in Vancouver, our amazing group of friends, the Richmond Spirit Runners, were assembling in John and Joan’s back yard waiting patiently for us to arrive …

There were a few phone calls and a couple of very calm friends that didn’t lead on about the party but made sure we kept to the plan of arriving first at Keith and Lori’s where we would be staying the night, and only heading to the planned dinner party at Joan and John’s together (much more organized than the UBC surprise!).

photos by Winnie and Simon

I think this picture says it all! This is the expression on my face as I turned around and saw the back yard full of our friends! It really took our breath away — and I was in tears immediately!

photos by Winnie and Simon

The yard was full tents protecting white table clothed tables, each decorated with a beautiful flower arrangements (thank you Gwen!). On one side of the yard was a bar with wine and other beverages. The back deck had a table of delicious appetizers, with the barbeque going full tilt with burgers. Inside was a table full of salads, buns and condiments. Music was piped in from the family room. As the sun set, lamps from inside were brought outside to illuminate the scene. Several friends went from table to table with their cameras, documenting the evening.

photos by Winnie and Simon
And then the speeches began …

To say this was overwhelming would be an understatement.

We left our friends late that night to collapse on Lori and Keith’s couch and decompress from a day of surprises and tears. Lori enlightened us on some of the inside scoop of how it all came together and asked us again if we had any inkling of the surprise.

“Nope” I said shaking my head. “We had no idea!” “And to be honest” I continued, “in the state I have been in the past week or two, I am amazed I have any idea about anything!”

So that sums up the second half of September 6th. I am not sure we have ever, or will ever have as full a day as this one. Many thanks to all of our friends and all of Marc's colleagues for a day of surprises that will be with us forever.

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