Goots Salute

Clay and sitter Marissa, making the rounds

So, here is the dilemma.

Clay’s grandfather, aka Goots, was throwing a party for his 80th birthday. He reserved a room at a nearby restaurant.

On the one hand:

We know from experience that restaurant is a tad crowded and noisy for the little guy. The bathroom, which we would be visiting numerous times is, how shall we say, cramped. Not only does it contain a sink built for Lilliputians, but you will inevitably be smacked in the keister with the door while washing your hands. Try maneuvering two people into that space.

My wife’s whole family would be there, and she and I both wanted a chance to chat and mingle, a difficult task when Mr. Busy Hands is in a crowded restaurant.

Add in the fact that Clay has been in high manic mood for the past week or so – we think it is allergies – and you can see that it was a situation crying out for a sitter.

(Small aside: the food is good at this place, but no matter what you order, and it could be a slice of cheesecake, it will be accompanied by a steaming pile of green beans, my nemesis from childhood.)

On the other hand:

My father-in-law, a man with a heart as big and soft as a beach ball, wanted to be surrounded by family. All of his kids and their spouses and his grandkids. He had turned 80 without his wife, who would have reached the same age on June 11. We knew it was going to be emotional.

And, hard as it his for him, Clay is part of the family and wants to be part of these occasions.

So, how do we make this work for everyone?

We attempted something we haven’t tried before. We decided to bring a sitter along. That, of course, involved some fancy logistics. My wife and older son went early to scope out the situation. Clay and I waited behind for the sitter. Then, the sitter followed me and Clay on the 30-minute drive to the restaurant. That way she could bring him home when he inevitably had had enough before the rest of us. (No need for me to cut my meal short or walk around in the parking lot with him in 85 degree heat.)

After parking the car, I called my wife to see if they were ready for us. People were still milling around in the reserved room, but we got the thumbs up and maneuvered through the back door and into the room.

Clay greeted Goots while talking to the hand. A multi-tasker.

The greeting

My wife showed Goots the message Clay had typed on his iPad before hand:

“happy birthday grandpop tony we love you”

Message in an iPad

Time for one family portrait:

Clay and family

Then Clay retired to an alcove in the room, where he paced, talked to the hand, and shoveled down bread like Mike Mulligan’s steam shovel. While the sitter kept an eye on him, my wife and I got to catch up with family, a rare treat. When Clay’s steak came, he joined the table and ate quietly. We got to relax over our green beans. Two trips to the bathroom and one mad dash down the back hallway aside, Clay did well.

When desert made its appearance, we could see the little guy was ready to head home. 90 minutes. Pretty good.

The following typed exchange took place between Clay and his grandpop as the little fellow was getting ready to leave:

“Sorry we are so stimmy”

“It’s OK Clay. I love you very much.”

“I love you too”

Then, Clay and the sitter were out the door, and my wife and I miraculously had some time to mingle and to relax over a chocolatey dessert. Together.

And take some pictures …

Grandpa Tony and his kids

The grandkids (minus one little fellow)

join in a toast …

A little sambuca with Uncle Ben

and present the birthday gift, a painting of Grandpop Tony and Grandmom Terry on their wedding day, leaving the always talkative Goots speechless.

The gift

Forty-minutes later (we were still on the clock with the sitter), I headed home while everyone else continued the party at Goots’ house.

Final thoughts from Clay? My wife cornered him with his iPad later that night.

“What are your thoughts about today?”

“awesome so thrilled to see everyone. we always like seeing family. so sad that we were stimmy. spirited conversation”

“What do you mean?”

“So sad that grandmom terry was in repose”

“was she there with us?”

“yes she was there as a spirit.”

I wonder if she had some green beans, as well.

Happy 80th Goots.

The happy couple

Special thanks to Aunt Ann Pastorello for sharing her photos.


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  1. #1 by Grandpa tony on May 28, 2012 - 10:15 am

    The blog is awesome. I needed to use Clay’s favorite expression.
    I am glad Clay and everyone else had a good time. We should meet like this more often.

  2. #2 by autismmommytherapist on June 1, 2012 - 2:04 pm

    So happy for all three of you! We’ve considered doing this with our oldest child too, just haven’t gotten there yet. A true win-win!

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