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Topic: Eighty Laps

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Author: Seth Dillingham


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# 6044

Eighty Laps

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.


Author: Seth Dillingham


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# 6045

Like a Leaf in the Wind

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

Traffic was very heavy on Route 95 South, as it almost always is in the summer time on a weekend. This being a long weekend, the traffic was extra heavy.

There was a pickup truck about five hundred feet ahead of us. We were in the right lane, driving sixty-five mph. Corinne and I were talking.

Something looked odd about the truck, something was moving around. Before I could figure out what it was, a double-bed-sized mattress flew out of the back, fourteen feet into the air, and floated along for a few seconds like the first leaf of autumn. It was very cool. And crazy dangerous.

The mattress floated over the cars in the high speed lane, spinning gracefully, and landed in the grass in the median against the guardrail.

"Wow!" I yelled. Corinne babbled.

He clearly didn't know anything had happened, so I sped up to tell him. Before I could get there, the car to his left "explained" it to him. He pulled over, and I asked Corinne if she thought I should help him.

Normally, I would just pull over to help without thinking about it. This time I had my wife and (someone else's) kid in the car. On a busy highway.

Corinne babbled some more. I pulled over, way into the breakdown lane, and backed up slowly towards the pickup. Traffic zoomed and roared past us.

He was a college kid. The first thing he said to me when I jumped out and walked back to his truck was, "Where did it go?" I pointed out how far back it had flown away, and described the scene to him.

"My roommates warned me that would happen."

"Oh, you mean because you hadn't tied it down AT ALL?" I didn't ask. Instead I just nodded.

"What should I do?"

I gave him three bungie cords out of the blazer to tie down the box springs, and told him to go up to the next exit (6A), turn around to go North back to exit 7, turn around again to go South, and then pull over into the median near the mattress to recover it.

He thanked me, shook my hand, and we drove away. I immediately decided he was too, uh... well, I decided he still needed help, so I led him all the way back to the mattress.

(Aside: I must say that pulling out of the high speed lane of a busy highway, onto the grassy median, is not for the faint of heart. Whoosh.)

By the time he pulled up behind us, I had the mattress in the air over my head. He ran around to release the bungie, I threw the mattress on top and passed the bungie back over. He couldn't hook it properly, so I ran around to do it for him.

After thanking me a couple too many times, his final pair of statements were equally amusing.

First, "I'm not going to tell my parents about this."

Second, "What do I owe you for the bungies?"

Just don't get yourself or anyone else killed on the way home today, buddy, and we'll call it even.


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