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“Eighty Laps”

From: Seth Dillingham In Response To: Top of Thread.  
Date Posted: Sunday, September 2, 2007 2:55:14 PM Replies: 1
   
Enclosures: None.

My father's father (Arthur Dilingham, Sr.) has a beautiful birth date: 7 • 27 • 27. It's symmetrical and palindromic, and also happens to mean that this summer marked the end of his eightieth lap 'round the sun.

Saturday his wife, his children, his children's children, his children's children's children, and a very (very, very) small percentage of his friends and extended family from around the world gathered in his honor to tell him just two things: "Happy Birthday," and "We Love You."

The party was held at Goddard Park in Warwick, RI, at the old Carousel Building.

There was a very cool tribute video assembled by my cousin Tiffany and her husband Josh (with, I think, the aid of the rest of the NH contingent of Dillinghams and their kin). It included pictures and/or video of most of the family, and a stirring, deeply emotional, recorded message from Barry Van Heerden in South Africa. (I've heard Grampa sing Barry's praise many times over the years, but I had no idea that he looked at Grampa as a father and mentor.)

Corinne shed a few tears when she saw Shane's picture in the video. Tif had written to me in advance to make sure it was ok. (Of course it was! Including and remembering him is always better than the alternative.)

They even included at least one picture of Lauren in there. That was cool, especially as Gramma and Grampa have both treated Lauren as their latest great granddaughter.

There was also an open mic on the stage, where we were all supposed to tell stories. Unfortunately, though some of us inherited some of Grampa's storytelling talents, none of us will eve be The Master Storyteller that he is. So, most of the stories were told by him! Three times he (literally) lept onto the stage to tell another story, and then hopped back off it again to retake his seat. (Eighty years old, hoppping onto and off of a two-foot-high stage! He's spry.)

He told the Bert and I classic, "I am Gagnon, Champion Moose Caller" story, but (more importantly) he also told some of the TRUE funny stories from his life, including the one about the skunk in the ventilation system at his school in Dighton, MA. I think his school principal probably went to his grave wondering who did that.

I have tons of stories I could have told, but couldn't think of the best ones until after we left so I never took the stage. Had I remembered, I certainly would have recounted the trip to Florida with him, Jed, Dad and myself (I wasn't ten, yet), to move Aunt Marrion. The highlights of that drive to FL included:

  • Arthur Fiedler's Greatest Hits (Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B!)
  • the brain teaser about the man with three sons
  • the brain teaser about the egg-laying chickens
  • Dad and Grampa acting like it was hot the moment we crossed the state line
  • Aunt Marrion freaking out when Jed and I happened to be in the vicinity of Grampa's wallet
  • feeding the seagulls on the beach

Everybody picks on Dillinghams for being... well, Dillinghams. Smart, knowing it (all of it), easily brought to tears, always having an opinion, and "talking until we think of something to say." Though Gramma had as much of a hand in forming us as did Grampa, there's no doubting the source of those particular characteristics. :-)

But, as much as we tease him and each other for those things — endlessly — we love him for them, too. We're a big family (wink, wink), and he’s been the patriarch for as long as most (any!) of us have been alive. (So it's not that we think he's perfect, or pretend that he is. It's that hearing him speak yesterday, and hearing everyone else speak about him, it's clear that he inspires us to aspire to perfection, and we're all better for it.)

Happy Birthday, Grampa. I love you, we all love you.


Discussion Thread:
  • Like a Leaf in the Wind (by Seth Dillingham at 9/2/2007)

    We left the birthday party after cleaning up the Carousel Building, at mid-to-late afternoon. Traffic

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