My daughter, Alicia Tatum, collaborated (a better word would be conspired) with Cindy Evans of the De Queen Bee newspaper staff last week to wish me a happy 70th birthday by placing boyhood pictures of me in the masthead of this column. I was certainly surprised to see that mischievous grin there instead of the wan, bald-headed caricature that ordinarily appears and more accurately depicts yours truly. But I deeply appreciated the gesture and all the other good wishes that have come my way.
For example, last week at the school where I am currently employed, I was in my office at mid-morning and my administrative assistant came in acting quite alarmed and exclaimed, “Dr. Ford, there is a big problem in the gym and they need you in there right now!”
I hastened to the site, expecting to see some athlete gone ballistic or some coach in a catatonic state over rules violations. Instead, I walked in trepidatiously to find the whole gleeful student body, along with faculty and staff, standing to sing happy birthday to me.
I didn’t quite know how to respond, so I sang back to them in an improvised melody, “♫ Thank you very much, thank you very much, thank you very muu-uuu-ch; thank you very much, thank you very much, thank you VERY much ♫.” I had the whole group join in after they learned the simple melody. We actually sounded pretty good.
When that was over, they all sat there looking at me, standing at mid-court. They were obviously expecting something more. The expression “deer in the headlights” comes to mind. So I entertained awhile with a little one-man skit (The “you must pay the rent” skit) and a magic coin trick, you know, the one where you “accidentally” drop it and pretend to pick it up but slide it under your shoe, so when you open your hand and it’s gone, people gasp. When I got through goofing off (and enjoying it a lot), the athletic director gave me a card on which the faculty had written very nice things about our time together.
Then I discovered that there was a birthday cake and other goodies in the faculty lounge. I felt appreciated and thought, there must be something special about three-score-and-ten.
There is. One of my daughters solicited stories about me from family and friends and expertly compiled the results, complete with photographs, into a professional quality book. My other daughter and her family, of course, contributed heartfelt entries to the book, in addition to manipulating the What Dan Says masthead as I mentioned at the outset. What’s more, she had birthday greetings read to me on the birthday portion the Country Breakfast Show.
So, turning 70 has been a special birthday in multiple ways. What I have liked most about it is the impression so many have that I have both enlightened and entertained them through the years. I just thought of a great epitaph: Here lies a story-teller who told no lies. I thought about adding: He loved cheeseburgers with fries, but decided against it, even though the rhyme is great.
Daniel G. Ford, Ph. D.