Peter’s last birthday

Sometime in 2004, Jay and I noticed that Peter’s 65th birthday was coming up. We decided to have some kind of party for him, and then set the idea aside and forgot to come back to it.

Shortly before his birthday, we realized that we hadn’t put together a party for him. I was embarrassed and sad to have failed to do that. We arranged to go up to WA for a visit, but for various reasons we couldn’t make it for his actual birthday. So we planned to go up the weekend of December 4-5 instead.

The rest of this entry may have happened that weekend, or it may have happened the weekend in January of 2005 when I flew up for Grandma’s birthday; I’m not sure which. I was pretty sure that I wrote about it at the time, in email to friends if nothing else, but I have no record of having done so. But I’m going to assume it was the December 2004 trip.

I vaguely think that Jay couldn’t make it after all; Jay, do you remember?

I flew up to SeaTac that Friday evening; not sure where I stayed, but it may’ve been a guest apartment at the nursing home where Grandma was living. On Saturday, I went to hang out with Peter, but he didn’t seem sure what to do; he seemed to feel that he needed to keep me entertained, so after casting about for a while, he hit on the idea of taking me to the Museum of Glass.

It was fun, and neat, in a low-key sort of way. We hung out there for a while, just the two of us, and then we went back to his house.

And it became even clearer that I hadn’t adequately explained that the point of my visit was to belatedly celebrate his birthday. I offered to take him and Nancy out to dinner; I think he said he didn’t really want to go to a restaurant, was just going to eat some leftover soup they had in the fridge. After some further discussion, there was briefly a plan to go out to a nearby cheap Mexican place where they apparently ate fairly regularly, but we never made it out of the house.

I had been thinking of going up to Seattle that night to see friends, but the timing was uncertain. I made a couple of surreptitious phone calls; I felt like if Peter was up for doing something, then I should stick around and Do Stuff With Him For His Birthday, but if he wasn’t, then I’d rather go see friends than sit awkwardly and silently around the house.

So there were various changes of plan, and Nancy didn’t really want to go out or to do anything, but in the end Peter convinced Nancy to play pinochle with us. We had a reasonably good game, in which Nancy got very lucky and (iIrc) won by quite a lot. And then I felt my familial obligation had been discharged, so I drove up to Seattle, and if I’m right that this all happened on the December trip, then that was the night that I ran into friends completely by accident in a little Mexican restaurant in Capitol Hill.

But the bit of that unsatisfying day that stands out most for me, unfortunately, was the moment when I tried to give Peter a birthday present. I’d had a story published in a book of zeppelin-focused pulp adventure stories earlier that year, so I decided to give Peter a copy of the book for his birthday. Only again there was a communication breakdown. I had told him about my story being published, but he didn’t remember, and he still didn’t realize that my presence there that weekend had anything to do with his birthday. So when I pulled out the book and tried to give it to him, he sort of glanced at it and said something like, “Oh, okay, but it doesn’t really look like my kind of thing, so you’d better keep it.”

At which point it was kinda too late to say “This is your birthday present!”

So, hurt but not sure how to proceed, I opened the front cover and said, “The editor quoted my story here on the first-page blurb.” And after a little further confusion and back-and-forth, Peter said, “Oh! This is the book with your story in it! Well, then of course I’ll take it!”

So the evening worked out okay in the end, I guess. But not my finest hour in either communication skills or present-giving.

I later retrieved the book, singed but intact, from the house. It’s on my bookshelf now, along with a bunch of his other books. I had intened to spend some of today working on the long-delayed project to deal with his books, but didn’t have the energy for it.

One Response to “Peter’s last birthday”

  1. Dobe

    I’m really trying to remember what we did for Peter’s actual 65th.

    I have no doubt I either saw Peter, or talked to him on that day. Yet I wish I had a distinct memory of it. For all I know one of the pictures I have of him was from that day.

    I’m wondering if my brothers have a clue if we had a 65th for Peter?

    The only image that comes to mind is that we would have met at Altera, and yet it was a Thursday, so perhaps we waited to the weekend, since Peter was probably working at that time…


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