At my age, birthdays are just another day. I don’t need to be reminded that I am getting older.
Parties are mostly for young kids or maybe extremely old folks, maybe a 100 year event or something.
But, last night, Susie had most of what’s left of our family get together for dinner and to let everyone know I had added another year to my age.
Actually, this was to celebrate my retirement day.
Twenty-one years ago, on the day I actually turned 55, I retired from my job after 32-plus years of going to work at a job I seldom enjoyed.
I was the head groundskeeper at the Indiana Reformatory.
While I liked working outside most days, and I really enjoyed plowing snow, I did not like going to work and putting up with the stress of working in a maximum security adult prison.
So, I retired early. Now, I have retirement days instead of birthdays (same date).
That way I still get presents, but I don’t get any older.
Most of my family is gone. I barely remember my grandparents, my parents both died many years ago. Susie’s parents have both left us.
While our daughter, Angi, lives in Fort Wayne, that’s still a 100-mile drive if we want to see her.
My brother lives in northern Ontario, about 1,200 miles from here, and we hadn’t seen him since before the start of the pandemic and the closing of the U.S./Canada border.
It had been about five years since I had last seen him.
Butch is older than I am and not in the greatest health.
Last month, Susie and I attended an outdoor writer’s conference in Bemidji, Minnesota.
Since we were only a couple hours away from the border, we met Butch, his wife and two of his daughters for lunch.
This is what we do every time we get close to each other.
When lunch was finished, I told him I would see him again in two or three years.
I have a sister, but she lives about 1,200 miles south of here in southern Florida. So, I don’t see her often either.
She is older than my brother.
We see her every couple years, also.
Two of Susie’s three brothers also live in Florida.
So, our family is not very close to each other.
I don’t know how it happened, but sometime in this late stage in my life, we picked up four more kids.
We didn’t adopt them, but I think for some reason, they adopted us.
We met Jason and Ladonna at the Farmer’s Market in Falls Park. He was selling bowls and other wooden items he makes.
Since I enjoy woodworking, we would stop and talk to them almost every Saturday.
We began going to dinner with them most Saturday nights and often to lunch with Ladonna through the week.
We were invited to Father’s Day at their house, Christmas and birthdays.
They became two new additions to our family.
The next two kids we added were Jon and Tina.
We met them when they started attending our church. (I was the doorman there, so I get to meet everyone.)
We invited them to join us at Red Lobster after church, and we go there almost every Sunday now.
We began going to dinner about once a week with them and I take them some of the specialties from my kitchen on various occasions.
We drive them around on occasions when one of their vehicles breaks down or help them out when one gets sick.
Just like with real family.
Last night, we got home from a metal detector hunt and like most nights, we went out to eat. Susie said she wanted Mexican food, so we headed for the Hacienda Vieja in Pendleton.
Angi and her husband, Paul, had spent the weekend at Butler with our grandson, Benjamin, and they were going to meet us for dinner.
When we arrived, Jon and Tina were sitting outside waiting for us.
As we walked toward them, a large diesel truck came around the corner. It was Jason and Ladonna.
I’m kinda slow, but I realized something was going on.
While it was actually a few days past my birthday (or retirement day), Susie had managed to get all of our kids to join us for dinner.
Her brother, John, who lives in Anderson showed up and made 10 at our table.
Since we go to the Hacienda two or three times a week, we know all of the staff. They came to our table, placed a large sombrero on my head and sang “Happy Birthday” in Spanish.
Susie and I only had one daughter and now we have just one grandson.
I really enjoy having more family around as I get older.
Rich Creason is an award-winning outdoors and travel writer whose work has appeared in local, regional, national and international publications for 40 years. Born in Anderson, he is a graduate of Markleville High School. He lives in South Madison County with his wife, Susie. He may be contacted at [email protected].