Yesterday was my stepfather’s 80th birthday. We had one hell of a party last night at my parents’ house in Miami with friends and family coming in from as far away as New York, California and Palm Beach County. Ten of the grandchildren made poster size birthday cards which we hung up all over the house as decorations. My husband did most of the cooking (crab cakes, smoked chicken quesadillas, seared tuna, tenderloin and vegetable farfalle) and the food was better than amazing. A Barbershop Quartet came to sing during the cocktail two hours. And after dinner, many of us got up and told stories about Poppi, a few sang songs, my daughter played Happy Birthday on her saxophone and some of us (including me) taped our noses up to look like pigs and used the opportunity to give a report on the state of the swine flu.

What a celebration! What a great group of people (seriously, my parents have the coolest friends)! And what a hangover my husband and I had this morning! The only thing missing last night was an important branch of our family but we felt their presence in so many ways. And with their absence, they have guaranteed us many more years of celebrations together.

I wrote the following in honor of the occasion and read it at the party:

For My Black Snake Poppi
On The Occasion Of His 80th Birthday

I was 17 when we met
I wasn’t sure what to make of this
Handsome, funny, dark-skinned man
I soon knew how one-of-a kind he was
And then it seemed like I had always known him

He is my parent, my physician, my confidante
One of my biggest fans
And I, his
We share a love of food, humor, conversation and Mammoo

He is my children’s grandfather
An inspiration to Julia
A place of comfort for Will
And now, another source of love for Molly

He is my husband’s friend
His partner in scotch and bourbon crime
In the horses
His medical go-to-guy
One of Fred’s favorite’s to cook for

He is the doctor for all of us
With an office that is always open
Not just for medical problems
But also for the issues of life
His advice is always welcome
(Well, almost always)

He is Mammoo’s racially integrated love
The fact that he doesn’t look a day over 70 is because of her
She encourages (demands) their vigorous gym activity
She feeds him rabbit food
And watches his intake of bratwurst and Reuben sandwiches
At least when she can
There are those days at the club

He is my stepfather
Though the word step doesn’t belong with the word father
At least when I am talking about him
Because he is, and has always truly been, my dad, my parent
My children’s grandfather
My husband’s friend
Our Black Snake Poppi

Happy 80th Birthday!