“Fred’s Big Party,” column for April 26, 2016

On the occasion of his 75th birthday, my friend Fred threw a party. A real wingding.

I wish you could’ve been there.

There was all the usual party fare _ food, drink, birthday cake, and for once, thank you, enough chairs to go around. (People of a certain age don’t take standing up lying down.)

There was also real music by a real live band. And a special guest who came all the way from Vegas to Monterey, Calif., to sing at the party just because she adores Fred. Who doesn’t?

What? No, it wasn’t me. Yes, I adore Fred. And yes, I came from Vegas (with my husband) and would gladly have sung if invited to do so, but nobody bothered to ask me. Ditto for the flamenco dancing.

A troupe of stunning women, including Nancy, Fred’s beautiful, long-suffering wife, flamencoed their hearts out in honor of the guest of honor. Fred sat in front through the entire performance, clapping like a trained seal and grinning like a mule eating briars.

Actually, all of the other men did that, too. And most of the women. I was tempted to join the dancers. But apparently, flamenco dancing requires practice. And dedication. Not to mention special shoes and some degree of coordination.

Anyhow. It was a great party. There were two things I liked best. First, the guest of honor. Everybody should have a friend like Fred. For years, he and my husband and I worked together in a newsroom. Fred was an editor _ the smart kind who didn’t change a word of my copy unless it made me look better.

He was passionate about the job. But more than the work, he cared most of all about the people he worked with. He had a gift for making hard things easier and unfun things more fun. With his help, good stories got better. And if I felt like crying, Fred made me laugh or gave me a shoulder to cry on. When he retired, he left the newsroom, but kept the gift.

Fred and my husband have been music buddies for years. My husband plays bass. Fred plays percussion _ congas or tambourines or even a TV tray. I once watched them play in a campground under a tarp in the pouring rain. And I’ve never seen them look happier.

Good friends share a lot of good stories. I could tell “Fred stories” until the cows come home. But I’ll just say this: The second best thing about his party was the guest list.

Seriously, what good is a party without great guests? Fred had wisely invited not just former coworkers, but family and friends from all sorts of lovely, overlapping circles. For me, it was such a pleasure to see faces and hug necks and have real conversations with people I had not seen in ages:

_ The pastor (and his wife) who had tied the knot for Fred and Nancy; for my son and his wife; and for my husband and me.

_ A middle school English teacher much loved by my three children and their mother.

_ Two friends I’d met under a tarp in the rain listening to my husband play music with Fred.

That was just a sample. There were a dozen or more others _ friends I worked with for 20 years and hadn’t seen in the last 10, since I moved to Vegas. I had thought I might never see them again. But thanks to Fred, there they were. It was his party, but it was a gift to us all.

Celebrations bring us together to renew old ties and remember where we’ve been. Best of all, they remind us that we’re alive, and we are not alone.

If you want to have a party, do it soon. Don’t wait. Invite me.

I’m thinking I might host my own memorial service. Yes, while I’m still around to see who shows up. My children and grandchildren can say nice things about me. My husband and Fred can play music. Nancy and her flamenco friends can dance. You can bring the food.

It will be a real wingding. Who knows?

Maybe I will sing.


  1. Dwight and Rosi says

    Dear Sharon:

    It was wonderful to see you… and what a lovely party. We had a great time; seeing old friends, eating, dancing, talking, and seeing Fred and Nancy so happy.

    Wha a joy in life to have such good friends.

    Dwight and Rosi

    And Sharon, you look absolutely wonderful and happy.

  2. I would be 60 years old this year ,want to invite my father to visit US . Or I would see him in India ,who knows ? what future holds . My father who is very good and active but loose his memory often when I call him ,he talks very well and knows me ever since I am born and tells me how we both were lost in wind storm ,he took us around for shopping and I sat behind like a small monkey holding him from like he can hold me with his shirt . He could not ride as wind was vey strong and his eyes were filled with dust ,mine too and he told me to grab him very hard and I did , he was holding his bicycle and I was holding his legs like poles ,Then he almost fell and took me near a pole of street light to hold . He threw his cycle and hold me like a precious baby not to loose . There was a lake close by ,thank God ! wind did not threw both of us in that as we both did not know how to swim . Whenever we meet after 3 years we talk about the same scene which happened in 1966 . And I ask him how he still remembers that incident after 50 years ? He says ,Oh ya that was so scary !! I still remember whole scene . Strong wind blew everything including my hair and clothes but not our bodies and we reached home after 2 hours safe and sound ,even the pole bent as we held it so strong ,now there is no lake and pole but we are still alive .Thank you God we survived with much more stronger storms ,snow and earthquakes after that . When we have life nothing takes it away unless God sends a message and it is time to go .Thank you for reading my experience .You put every thing in so inspiring way that we are inspired to share our story of survival .

  3. Nancy Garza says

    Even though I had a Stroke a couple of days ago, I wouldn’t miss this party that I’ve been looking forward to attend. It was Amazing and Love seeing old Herald faces. Fred your such an Amazing man. I Love being around your infectious smile and Love your hugs. Thank you for the invite?. It was soo fun! Love you to pieces?????????

  4. Paulette Lynch says

    Love, love and more love. The best of LIFE!!!

  5. dede woodhead says

    This column made me want to have a party, for all the reasons you describe. Your idea of throwing your own memorial before you die was the best!

  6. Patricia Burneson says

    I’ll bring food (home bought). I’d love to be there. But remind when the date is near.

  7. Count us in! Neva will bring a casserole. Me? I’ll bring Neva of course.
    All the best,

  8. Pearlene Curry says

    I loved this column. Haven’t seen any of yours that I haven’t. I look forward to our Sunday morning coffee’s and what you will be telling or where you may take us to visit and see. I hope to read them for a long time. Thank you so much

  9. Another delightful read. Really enjoy your columns and the sharing of your memories. Keep them coming.

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