3 October 2010: 4 years 1 month on …
Fuddruckers is a chain of hamburger restaurants in the United States.
We went there for lunch on the way to Atlanta’s O’Hare International Airport when we were returning to South Africa after our month-long holiday in Georgia and Missouri in the USA in October 2001. It was the day that the United States declared war on Afghanistan, after the Twin Towers had been destroyed on September 11.
Sean was nine and Phillip was six.
They loved Fuddruckers. From a lengthy menu, you get to order your specific favourite roll and your specific hamburger patty. Then you go around the various food stations in the restaurant and add on whatever your heart desires – different relishes, garnishes, cheeses, tomatoes, onions, etc etc etc … and you end up with a burger as tall as the Twin Towers used to be! And you could eat as much as your heart desires!
So, we decided that the theme for last night’s party should be a Fuddruckers Build-a-Burger evening. Bring your own patties which we braaied and you add the rest!
The reason for the party was simple!
When we were in East London in August to play Selborne College, Rob and Anneline Parker had sat next to us at the Grey Orchestra concert. Rob was quite emotional about that being the last weekend of our matric sons’ rugby and music at the school. After all, as parents, we had spent the last twelve years next to the sports fields together and attending various concerts and functions.
We had discussed this in the car on the way home to Port Elizabeth, and I suggested that we have a party to celebrate this milestone in our lives. We decided to party in order to celebrate Sean’s leaving school, my birthday on 18 September and my 4th birthday with CBD, Pera’s birthday today, Sean’s birthday on 20 May and Phillip’s birthday on 7 July – we decided to celebrate Life!
The Fuddruckers theme came easily – the date came with great difficulty. Every date we chose already had something else planned. Eventually, we settled on Saturday 2 October and we invited Sean’s class mates and their parents – people who have been a part of our lives over the past twelve years.
We need the rain, Lord, but please not on this Saturday night!
Despite Windguru and the SA Meteorological Agency saying otherwise, the weather looked like it was going to be miserable, so we put up Pera’s large family tent in the garden and a gazebo on the back patio.
But God gave us a rain-free and a wind-free evening … And so, last night, we had some sixty people celebrating at our home – transformed into a Fuddruckers for the evening.
I had thought of saying a few words, but decided not to interrupt the festivities, mostly because I think I would have been too emotional.
This is what I would have said to our eighteen year old sons (and to all those children in South Africa) who are about ready to leave high school in three weeks’ time (and what I did get to say on Tuesday before they left school):
Rector, Men of the Grey: 2010
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you.
Some of you call me Mr Lunnon
Others say Uncle Ed
For some it’s just Ed
For just one (I hope!), it’s Dad
And a few say Sir!
But the first time I stood on the stage in this hall
Everyone in front of me called me Sir
despite the fact that
I was but a few years older than you are now.
That was because I had just started my first job here
As a teacher at The Grey.
None of you were even born yet
After all, that was 26 years ago.
Not much has changed in this hall since then.
The faces have changed,
And the unlicensed pub, called Kim, that was run by the BODAS
Under this very floor, during those years,
No longer operates!
Unlike past generations, most of you, from the present generation, have flown
Wherever you fly in the world, the procedure is basically the same
And most of you will be familiar with that procedure
The whole flying procedure reminds me of our life journey too
Much of it is in the preparation
And that is what you have been busy with up until now
You have been packing your bags for the last 18 years
You have been planning your flights
You have booked your tickets
You have passed the initial checking-in requirements
The bags are now loaded onto the flight
You have taken up your seats
Right now you are taxi-ing to that final point on the runway before you stop for a while
You fasten your seat belts
Make sure your seats are in the upright position
And the tray tables are stowed away in front of you
The pilot does the last final tests and checks
And if everything is OK you will be cleared for take-off
And then the real journey gets underway
For the next two months you will be busy with those final tests and examinations
If you pass and all is ok, early in January 2011 your name will appear in the newspaper
You will receive your school-leaving certificate
You will be cleared for take-off
But no-one just flies off arbitrarily
The destinations and the goals are set
Each of you will be on a different flight
Each headed in a different direction
Some of you will fly first class – some economy class
Some are “lucky” and may get upgraded along the way
Some will be squeezed in – some will travel comfortably
The ride sometimes is smooth
Sometimes the cabin crew is something good for the eye
Sometimes the meals and drinks are free
Sometimes you are diverted
Sometimes on time and sometimes not
Sometimes the journey goes according to plan
And sometimes the journey ends catastrophically.
Many of you are aware that, four years ago,
I was diagnosed with a very rare terminal illness
And that I was given but a few years to live.
I had never thought then that I would make today.
Please don’t wait for such a life-changing event
To shock you into living!
As we sit here today – no one knows what the future ride will be like
But whatever happens –
Ensure that you enjoy the ride – every single moment of it
As from now!
Make the most of each opportunity that comes your way
And, moreover, when they don’t come your way, make opportunities
Plan and set yourself goals
Participate in everything
Enjoy the view
Take many walks and smell the roses
Speak to your traveling companions
Enjoy the refreshments
Drink as much as possible – water that is!
Stop every now and then to listen to the music
Read your in-flight material – as much as possible
I have found my Bible full of travel tips
You may wish to read yours, too.
And put your travels in the Hands of the Great Captain.
Marvel at the wonder of your trip.
As your parents and teachers, we have confused you at times
We have taught you morals and rules,
But at the same time we told you that
Snow White sleeps with 7 men
Tarzan is half naked
Cinderella comes home way after midnight
Pinocchio tells lies
Aladdin is the king of thieves
Batman drives at 200 kph!
It’s no wonder you mess up sometimes!
But, as your parents we have brought you successfully to this point of departure
For the first time our paths will now go separate ways
We will watch you as you fly off and disappear into the distance
But we will always be there for you to return
Our cell phones will always be on for you
It will be up to you to turn yours on to call us
Hopefully not only when you need us
But also when you just want to chat and share with us
And tell us where you are in your journey
But whilst we see you off at this time
Remember that we are also on our flights of life
Just in front of you
All that you will experience we have experienced before you
And we can often give advice – available to you at any time
Heed that advice
And, God willing, as we see you off on your life journeys today
There will be that one day that we will be waiting for you
When you eventually arrive at that Destination that we believe we are all headed to
We wish you good luck for your examinations
We wish you good luck for your journey
We wish you pleasant weather conditions
We wish you lots of leg-room
We wish you pretty air hostesses
We wish you great traveling companions
Above all, we wish you safe traveling
And happy landings
Over the next few days you will receive many words of wisdom
There is an Old Mutual advert flighted on TV at the moment
We get wisdom in many different ways
It’s what we do with it that counts.
Your life is now in your hands!
(And Happy Birthday wishes to my wife, Pera, today – may there be many happy returns of the day!)
PS. Fuddruckers is not a bad word used to describe naughty schoolboys, as many Grey boys think, after our friend John Clarke heard us use the word and decided to call them Fuddruckers!