What do you get a guy turning 64? This one got something very usual and something VERY unusual


At the end of a long phone conversation last Sunday, our son reminded me to check my email, and I found there the birthday present he usually sends in a link to a $50 gift card for a music store.

It’s something I always use and that will always remind me of our common love of music. It reminds me to remind him that I hope his work someday allows him time to enjoy and further develop the musical talent he has.

While his annual present will remain a no-brainer for as long as I can hold or chew on a drum stick, others in the family were pretty much flummoxed.

MORE FROM TOM STAFFORD: Hidden Clark County history: When a group of citizens protected an escaped slave from armed federal marshals

What do you get a guy turning 64?

He is by then far enough into the “I don’t need anything” stage to be annoying, and what you’d really like to give him – a better attitude – even Amazon can’t deliver.

As it turned out, the perfect gift did arrive by way of very special delivery three hours after my birthday expired.

And the birthday itself was great.

My mom called and told me with slight variation the story she always likes to tell about the day I was born.

It had been a Sunday, and when her labor pains came in our home at 30606 Hathaway St. in Livonia, Mich. She and my Dad got in the car and headed east on Telegraph Road toward New Grace Hospital in Detroit.

When they arrived, an intern greeted her and was taking all the pertinent information when my mother told him the baby was coming. Although she remembers saying it in English, in moments of stress, she has been known to switch to Finnish, the language most often spoken in her childhood home.

MORE FROM TOM STAFFORD: These modest historic items have a new home at a rare Springfield Underground Railroad site

Although I learned very little of the language, the tone my mother invoked at such moments was a mixture of a hard left jab followed by a whiff of smelling salts. (A generation earlier, during the Great Depression, my Grandma Salli couldn’t afford the smelling salts, so people had to come to on their own.)

The day I was born, a long-time nurse who may have been from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan recognized the language or the tenor of Mom’s voice, swept aside the intern and put my Mom on a gurney. Minutes later, I was tugged from her womb with a pair of forceps I always mention when my wife comments on the odd shape of my head.

My mother was asleep during the extraction and initially had to rely on the report from my deeply kind and sentimental late father, who told her, my noggin notwithstanding, “We have another beautiful boy.”

There’s always such joy in her voice when she tells the story, and I’m always surprised that at one time, my mere presence brought into someone else’s life the kind of joy my grandsons bring into mine. The only other time I remember a similar reaction from Mom was when she told me the story of the day they didn’t have enough money for lunchmeat and I told her I was happy with a mustard sandwich.

MORE FROM TOM STAFFORD: Springfield man to be honored for work with former inmates

My brother also called Monday. He was visiting Utah with his two sons, their wives and his two grandchildren. They all got together because one of the sons is a particularly skilled math teacher who helps to teach summer seminars in Park City, Utah.

Although grandson Archie, named for our grandfather, is in a vastly advanced weight class, Bill reported that granddaughter Annilee had yet to be put on concussion protocol as a result of grandchild interactions.

The calls were sprinkled into a day in which my wife and I enjoyed the company of Atticus, our older grandson, who is as goofy as I am and as semi-aware of the world around him. Both of us, I think, find the imaginary world a more pleasant place to wander.

We took a bike ride together so he’d a have a chance to learn to ride on flat land, something not possible in his neighborhood. It reinforced lessons learned the night before with my wife, although this time, neither rider took a spill.

And that came at the end of a day highlighted by a tour of the Ohio Caverns, where a little boy who has been fascinated by zoos and aquariums took in another part of the natural world, making an impression on the tour when he correctly answered the tour guide’s first question by saying the word “stalactite.”

Of course, the excitement with which he was discovering the world lifted our spirits, and the spirit with which he selected treasures at the gift shop reminded me of one of the quantum leaps of childhood joy. It’s a joy I shared with my Grandpa Salli (the earlier mentioned Archie) when we both bought a wallet woven together with plastic string and bearing images of Yellowstone Park.

We had those wallets in our pockets when we nearly ran into a bear in the dark while trying to return to a cottage heated with a brand of pressed wood that was as natural as pasteurized processed cheese.

Sunday night, I had gone to sleep with Atticus between my wife and me and awakened shortly after 3 a.m. Tuesday when nature called.

Just as the kids at Ohio Caverns had panned for gems in a water sluice the day before, I once again pulled out the strainer I had been using since I came home from the emergency room on Memorial Day.

During the month that followed, I had come to accept in my meetings the friendly urologist I was referred to, that he would be violating me by sending a snake into my personal plumbing to retrieve that jagged little kidney stone.

I postponed the violation hoping nature would take its course. But when my birthday passed and the kidney stone hadn’t, I was resigned to my fate.

Then, just after 3 a.m., although I hadn’t blown out a candle, my birthday wish was granted.

It was slightly late, but it was the best birthday present this 64-year-old grandpa could have received.

Because in the words of the immortal Jimi Hendrix, I was stone free.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in News

Florida woman on molly, meth fractures baby's skull while darting through traffic, deputies say
Florida woman on molly, meth fractures baby's skull while darting through traffic, deputies say

A 23-year-old Leesburg, Florida, woman who said she had been taking molly and meth for three days seriously injured her infant son early Monday while running from deputies near the Silver Springs neighborhood, the Marion County Sheriff's Office said. Deputies said they were called after witnesses said they saw a woman darting through traffic while...
FDA, local schools take steps as teen e-cigarette use surges
FDA, local schools take steps as teen e-cigarette use surges

E-cigarette use by high schoolers increased 80 percent in the past year, prompting the Food and Drug Administration to propose new measures against flavored nicotine products that have spurred the rise. More than 3.6 million American middle and high school students admitted to being e-cigarettes users in 2018, up 1.5 million from last year, according...
Opinion: Break up Facebook

The New York Times revealed last week that Facebook executives withheld evidence of Russian activity on the Facebook platform far longer than previously disclosed. They also employed a political opposition research firm to discredit critics. There’s a larger story here. America’s Gilded Age of the late 19th century began with a raft of...
Washington teacher dies in childbirth - husband now suing hospital
Washington teacher dies in childbirth - husband now suing hospital

When Jane Chang arrived at Highline Medical Center in Burien, Washington, on Sept. 29, 2017, the healthy 28-year old woman was 41 weeks and three days pregnant. According to a civil complaint recently filed in King County Superior Court, Chang's "labor was induced" and "a cesarean delivery was discussed."  The complaint alleges...
2 senior Chihuahuas found in box on side of the road in Pennsylvania
2 senior Chihuahuas found in box on side of the road in Pennsylvania

The Beaver County Humane Society in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, is asking for help finding the person or persons responsible for abandoning two senior Chihuahuas in a cardboard box on the side of the road. The dogs, determined to be approximately 8 and 10 years old, were found yesterday in Monaca Heights. They appeared to be in need of extensive...
More Stories