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Celebrating a friend's surprise 50th birthday!

Updated on July 24, 2011

50 years and still young

A trip back to our childhood

The one thing in life that will always bring a smile and a feeling of happiness to most of us is the opportunity to see the friends from our past. Memories start to flood our mind as we encounter celebrations with our friends we have not seen in many years. The last time I had such a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with friends in my past was at our 30th year high school reunion which was a real blast. I could not believe how fast it seemed the time had passed us by and facing the reality that our 50th year birthdays were looming in the not to distant future.

Well 50 for me has come and gone as I am now at the half century mark and I am now sharing those celebrations with friends from my past. Most are surprise birthday parties that are quite elaborate and a chance to reconnect and have a fun time and forget our worries and just hang out, talk and relive our past and especially our youth.

When we think of our friends from the past there are some who really stick out in our minds because they have had a real positive impact on our lives and they made us feel special, accepted and allowed us to share, connect and have great times together. One such friend who comes to mind is a contemporary of mine who is about to celebrate his 50th year birthday and luckily I had the opportunity to celebrate with him, his family and friends at his surprise party organized by his wife Nancy, this weekend. It was a wonderful celebration and I brought my son and we both had a tremendous time. I was hoping my wife was able to come but she had work commitments.

What can I say about my friend Sandy? He is a tremendous person who taught me many things in life and I was fortunate to know him and call him a friend. I have many fond memories of visiting at his house and always felt welcome. His mom and dad were wonderful people who really made me feel like part of the family. I always enjoyed talking with his parents and his sister on my visits and remember hanging out with Sandy the whole day and it seemed to just fly by because we were always having great times. I remember Sandy as always being dedicated to the things he enjoyed and he had passion and was always interested in learning and doing new things. I remember Sandy was one of my first friends who got into the CB (Citizen's band) radio craze and I would listen in to some of the converstions he had. It was pretty interesting and it led the way to meeting others.

Photography was something he really loved as we were growing up and he was great at it. He took great nature pictures and loved developing them and he proudly displayed them in his room and in the lab. The lab was set up in his basement that he created on his own to develop black and white film and he really enjoyed it. I was always happy to assist him and he taught me the fundamentals of black and white photography which I am truly appreciative for.

I remember Sandy was always into projects and I will never forget the time when he had the idea of building his own pool table out of wood. He laid out an area in his basement where he would set it up and then he drew the plans and off we went to the lumberyard to buy the wood and then he would eagerly cut the wood to the dimensions he laid out in his drawing and we worked on constructing the table. He had the vision not only on paper but also in his mind of what he wanted and I was there to assist him as he led the way in building this pool table. He was very resourceful and creative and we always had fun working on these projects. As the table started to take shape it was very exciting to see because you could see it was in accordance with his drawings and it really looked great. The table was built in stages and after it was fully assembled from scratch the last part was fitting the top layer to match the cutouts where the pool balls would drop and then covering the playing surface with the green felt which the pool balls would roll on. Sandy made sure the surface was even and smooth and that the felt would look and feel just right. After we cut the felt to fit the dimensions of the table and we sized it he then carefully laid it out and made sure it was properly sealed in and that it was free from air pockets. I must admit that when it was completed and we played our very first game of pool it was a very exciting experience. Seeing that everything worked perfectly was the icing on the cake. That pool table was better than anyone we would buy pre-built because we knew we built it ourselves and we had great fun. Sandy really helped provide me with wonderful learning experiences when we got together and he was always thinking of his next exciting project.

I believe we learn a lot or are capable of learning a lot more when we express an interest and take initiative in learning on our own. This certainly describes my friend Sandy because he was always reading books for ideas and how to do things. I remember he would save his family from spending money unnecessarily by learning to do some of the home improvements on his own. He would learn how to properly paint walls and remove old wallpaper and he really was very careful and precise in everything he did. I was very impressed and I always tried my best to lend a helping hand.

As we get older we want to have our own independence and we like to prove ourselves and I remember one of Sandy's most ambitious projects was converting the family basement into his own personal apartment where he drew the floor plans to reflect a four room apartment that included a bedroom, a bathroom a living-room and a kitchen. It really would test his abilities and would provide him many challenges along the way. He approached it as he approached every project and he always referred to books for ideas and proper design. He would have to address many areas which included plumbing, electrical, heating and ventilation. As he laid out the designs and developed a timetable to complete it in he eagerly started this most ambitious project of all and as always he called upon me to assist him which really made me feel good that I could help my friend in some way and also learn some valuable skills. He also needed to rely on the expertise of trained electricians, carpenters and plumbers as he forged ahead in building his apartment. Sandy did a lot of the work on his own and I was pretty much there to help as best I could and to lend my support. He was always committed to completing what he started and would always feel inspired to do so from his mother who always encouraged him along the way. I don't remember exactly how long it took for him to complete the apartment from start to finish but I do remember he took photographs at the different stages of development and as he neared completion it was truly amazing to see how it progressed. When he did complete it you could see how much it meant to him. He was very proud of his accomplishment, rightfully so and he carved out a wonderful living space for himself with all the modern conveniences of home. I was incredibly inspired by him and I learned a great deal from helping him along the way.

So as I was at my friend Sandy's 50th which his wife Nancy planned so beautifully I remembered back to these wonderful things we did as young kids which really touched me and made me realize the importance of friendship. I was happy to see my son enjoy himself at the party and I got to see Sandy and Nancy's children who are wonderful kids. I also got to see and talk with other friends I had not seen in many many years and was delighted to see Sandy's sister, Rosie who was always a delight to talk with and still is.

Some wonderful memories of the party was seeing my son swimming in the pool, talking with friends at the party I had not seen in many years and watching the stand up comedians put on a wonderful show that had us all laughing. It was a great celebration and I wish my best friend Sandy a wonderful 50th with his wonderful family and many many more to come. Thank you for being my friend and for all the great memories. We miss the ice cream shop and wish you all great things! Happy Birthday Sandy!

Edward D. Iannielli III

Sandy's Birthday Bash

Sandy's Birthday Bash

Sandy's Birthday Bash

Sandy's Birthday Bash


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