Birthday cake
84 comes only once in a lifetime

There's never enough celebrations

| The email from dear niece Carol was short notice:

Our father/grandfather/uncle/brother/friend - Carl Schneider will soon be 84 years old. We are planning a pot-luck get together to celebrate (because we need more celebrations) and are wondering if you might be interested in joining us...

Reading between the lines I decided to go. After all, my sister Ethel (now 89!), my brother-in-law Carl, and I are the last ones standing of the generation begat by my parents.

Fortunately, I was able to get a very reasonable airfare. The fare was the only reasonable thing about it, however. In order to get the reasonable fare I had to leave from Ontario, an hour drive away, suffer a 3-hour layover in Denver, and arrive in Minneapolis near the stroke of midnight. And the return trip would be no better. Leave Minneapolis at the end of the day, fly to San Francisco for another 3-hour layover, and finally arrive back at Ontario at one o'clock in the morning. With the hour drive home, I reached my bed after 2am.

Tornado shelter, oh yeah
Hello?! What's this?
storm shelter is in the mens room
In the men's room!?!?

Something new struck my eye in the Denver airport — the overhead signs pointed not only to Baggage Claim, the Terminal, and Elevator, but also to Tornado Shelter. I suppose that's prudent, but this is the first I've seen such signs.

But imagine my dismay/surprise when I discovered that it is the men's bathroom that serves as the shelter. I can just see hundreds of people cramming into a bathroom while the roof is ripped off the terminal. Yikes. Not a pretty picture.

My flights were on United, all on new planes with wi-fi. You might think the wi-fi is for the benefit of the passengers, and it is, to be sure, but it also benefits the airline greatly. Now they can dispense with the video screen in the seatback ahead of you and expect you to watch entertainment on your own "small electronic devices" such as tablets and smartphones. They can also make the seatback much thinner, letting them pack more rows of seats into the same cabin space. The bean counters in HQ must be quite pleased with that one.

Surprise high-school reunion

The secretary of my high school graduating class prised out of niece Beanie that I was going to be in the area for the family birthday celebration. Bless her heart, in less than 24 hours she managed to pull off a mini-reunion. Over a dozen of my classmates showed up at the Bierstube to say hello and reminisce. What a surprise! A pleasant surprise.

One of the big topics of conversation was the venue for the actual 55th reunion to take place in 2016. Let's just say that the site chosen did not meet with unanimous approval. Everybody's a critic. The other big question was, would I come back for it? I'm an organized person, generally, but when it comes to an event a year out, I have a commitment issue.

The birthday celebration

Carl and his brothers Jerry and Herb
Carl and his brothers Jerry (left) and Herb (right)

The main event, the birthday party, was the following day. A great many of the cousins (children of my brothers and sisters) showed up with their own children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren to properly mark Carl's birthday.

A big surprise was that two of Carl's brothers also came down from northern Minnesota to make his day. The three had quite a gabfest together.

Mostly everyone just spent the afternoon visiting with each other, after, of course, stuffing their faces with birthday cake. Can never be too much cake it turns out.

An interesting trivium emerged: it seems that the sister of niece Carol's husband is the manageress of the hotel where I was staying. I tried to introduce myself to her, but she was off and would not be back until after I'd gone. Well, next time.

Cruising on the river

Nephew Tom just got a new boat and offered a ride on the mighty Mississippi. Turns out this is not just any old boat, but a gorgeous 38-foot cabin cruiser with all the amenities of home. In fact, Tom and Kristi treat it pretty much as a vacation home, taking off whenever they can, sleeping on the boat, etc.

Carl also came along, and between Tom, Joannie, and JT they managed to get him on the boat and up to the upper deck. Not too shabby for a guy who can't walk by himself, much less climb stairs!

face
My sunburn wasn't this bad, but it felt like it

At one point Kristi said, "Paul, your knees are getting a little red, do you want some sunscreen?" Oh, no, I'll be fine. Famous last words, indeed. When I looked in the mirror the next morning my face rivaled Rudolph's nose, and my knees were no less fried.

To rub salt in the wound, when I got home the weekly "Just 4U" coupons from Vons (aka Safeway) included a deal on Banana Boat sunscreen. Too little, too late.

Banana Boat sunscreen on sale
Now they make an offer!

Check out the additional photos in the slideshow below.

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Last updated on May 11, 2016

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