Sunday, May 24, 2009

On Organizing Family Events and Invading Normandy

Special Note: I actually started this post early yesterday morning...but was interrupted by granddaughter Leya, who showed up at my door and let me know that it was more important that I attend to her than to finish some dumb thing on the computer. You can judge for yourselves which way the time would have been better spent...

Those of you who are interested in the history of the Second World War know that the allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 - known forevermore as "D-Day" - was one of the most intricately planned, tightly-organized, and close-run military operations ever conducted. General Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower masterfully coordinated an unimaginably intricate ballet of hundreds of thousands of men, millions of tons of supplies, vast fleets of ships and aircraft, and the activities of a team of fractious allies in an unthinkably complicated endeavor that marked the beginning of the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. General Eisenhower is justly famous for this achievement.

But Ike's magnificent accomplishment pales to near insignificance when compared to organizing this family.

We're nearly through our Memorial Day weekend miniature family reunion here in Pittsburgh. Our son and his family from Ohio, our daughter and her family and Agnes and I from Virginia, and my sister and her family from right here in town have come together in the sort of intricately haphazard operation only this family can manage in order to visit great-grandpa Bilbo the Elder in the nursing home where he is still recovering from his stroke earlier this year. On the surface, you'd think this wouldn't be a difficult thing to manage...get everyone from out of town in the same hotel (check), make sure the GPS units are fired up or the MapQuest directions printed out (check), make sure the children all look presentable (check), make sure Bilbo is appropriately dressed and (oops...sorry, that one was from Agnes's personal checklist), and then tell everyone where to be at what time.

If you believe it's that simple, I've got a bridge to sell you.

Here are just a few of the complicating factors:

1. Grandchildren who need naps of varying lengths at different times in order to avoid meltdowns at inconvenient times.

2. Pittsburgh geography (#$%! hills) and the opinions of residents - vs - the guidance of GPS as to the best way to get from point A to point B (we made the trip between the hotel and the nursing home at least twice a day since Friday, and never went the same way twice).

3. An hour-long downpour yesterday at Kennywood Park that ended up costing a fortune because we took shelter in - of all stupid places - a gift shop.

4. Hotel pools that use a little bit of water to purify the chlorine (my eyes are so red that cars stop when I stand at the side of the road).

5. Trying to decide who will ride with whom, and what time we'll all meet.

6. Trying to find everyone when that time comes.

7. Getting everyone to look at the camera, smile, and keep their eyes open at the same time for pictures involving more than two people.

8. Etc.

I have the greatest family in the world, and I love them all dearly, but it's probably a good thing that none of us had access to any weapons over the last three days (except for the light saber grandson Joe got during the Dreaded Kennywood Downpour of '09, which I just knew he was going to poke into some lawsuit-happy dumbass at some point during the day). Everyone has had a great time, Great-Grandpa Bilbo was able to bask in the affection of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and we even managed to squeeze in shopping, pool time, and the trip to Kennywood Park (where yours truly - the ultimate thrill-ride-hater - survived The Turtle, The Kangaroo, and The Bayern Kurve, while Agnes and the others took on The Phantom's Revenge, the Aero 360, and other stomach-murdering attractions. Well, somebody had to stand on the ground and take the pictures, right?).

Those pictures will be available here and (for those of you who are on my list, bwa-ha-haaaa!) on Facebook starting tomorrow.

But getting back to the original comparison of this weekend with the Normandy Invasion...

Those who plan major military operations can learn something from this family.

Clausewitz may have written of the fog of war, but we have contended with - and mastered - the blizzards of children, the logistical complications of a fleet of cars, and the sleep schedules of a reinforced platoon of grouchy toddlers.

Sorry, Ike ... we've got you beat. And we had more fun.

Pictures coming tomorrow to prove it.

Have a good day. Be safe if you're driving. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

1 comment:

SusieQ said...

"8. Etc."

This is the one that always gets me in the end whenever I have tried to plan a family get-together to utter perfection. It happened to me on Sunday when our family of 23 (15 of which are children) got together at our house for the Memorial Day weekend.

Etc. includes things like half a gallon of lemonade flying out of its pitcher onto the food table and all over the floor thanks to the small, inept hands of a six-year-old who was only trying to pour himself a glass. It happened to me on Sunday.

Before the lemonade deluge, I had brought the planning of this family meal to a new high in perfection. I had allowed my perfectionist tendencies to go hog wild in preparation for the event. Everything, and I mean everything, was absolutely perfect. And then the DELUGE!

I know what to do when life hands you a lemon. But what do you do when life hands you lemonade? Oh, sweet irony!