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Trying to not goof up ‘the big 5-0’

Age, it is said, brings wisdom.

My wife turns 50 this week.

"So, what have you got planned?" she asked a couple weeks ago.

I replied, "It’s so secretive that I don’t even know."

"I’m leaving it up to you," she said.

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That’s not particularly wise, given my track record. I only recently had emerged from the marital dog house after wishing her a happy wedding anniversary a day or two before the blessed event.

"You don’t even remember when we got married, do you?" she said then. Well, I sort of did. I had thought the anniversary would be easy to remember because Nov. 22 also is the date on which John Kennedy was assassinated. The fact that our wedding anniversary wasn’t actually on that date was an inconvenient truth. It was an innocent mistake, but as my son pointed out, a big boo-boo.

So pressure was understandably building to get her 50th birthday party right. A few years back, when my 50th came around, and despite my suggestion that we let it quietly pass, Kathy threw a grand party filled with friends, black balloons and streamers, and countless gag gifts that included but weren’t limited to Old Goat pills and other remedies to offset the ravages of age.

Friends and laughter filled the house, but I was more than a little taken back by all the attention.

That reaction was due to my upbringing. With more than a dozen birthdays to celebrate, our family, out of necessity, kept things small. Ma most often baked a devil’s food cake with chocolate frosting and sometimes topped it with store-bought candles. Big sisters handled our parents’ parties and they neither needed nor sought my planning advice.

I was desperate for some help. Fortunately, a friend and neighbor came to the last-minute rescue. She suggested that I take Kathy to a restaurant of her choosing. Following that, she would host a surprise birthday party at her farm home.

After thanking her profusely, I asked what could I bring for the occasion.

"Nothing," she said.

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I can do nothing pretty well.

"Just don’t bring her over before 7," she said.

"I can remember that," I said.

More was needed to escape the dog house, of course. Gift-giving offered the best hope. Past efforts — a vacuum cleaner, electric frying pan, an electric can opener and a broom — suggested that more effort was needed. It was out of desperation that a brilliant idea emerged: I would leave it up to her to buy whatever she wanted. Money was no object.

My wife is a remarkable woman for having put up with me all these years, the exact number of which escapes me at this time. The last time I was asked in a public setting how long we had been married, I flubbed it by a year or two.

Close, when it comes to such matters, isn’t quite good enough.

Mychal Wilmes is managing editor of Agri News, a weekly agriculture newspaper published by Post-Bulletin Co. Beginning today, his column will appear every Monday in the Post-Bulletin.

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