Cooking up my famous pork tenderloin in my backyard smoker and having a bunch of people over would’ve been the ideal way to spend a lazy summer Saturday. But this Saturday I was turning 50 and my wife, Julie, insisted on a party.
Normally I love parties. But having everyone I know whoop and holler, “Happy birthday, old man!” and hand me gag gifts like denture cream? No, thank you.
Truth be told, I wasn’t ready to turn 50—to be past what I’d thought of as my prime. There were so many things I wished I’d accomplished by now that I hadn’t gotten around to. Adventures like driving one of the cars I’d restored out west on legendary Route 66. Businesses I’d dreamed about starting. Places I’d planned to visit.
I’d wanted this day to pass as quietly as possible. That wasn’t an option. When Julie sets her mind to something, it’s best not to argue. She’d been up since dawn decorating—hanging red crepe paper and setting up tables with model cars from my collection as centerpieces.
Mac and cheese, baked beans, corn casserole, garlic bread and a pot of Brunswick stew lined the kitchen counter. My mom made deviled eggs, and Julie’s mom brought the cake. I put on my barbecue apron and parked myself out back by the smoker.
Guests came up. I tried not to flinch every time someone said, “Hey, old dude,” and slapped me on the back.
Then Julie called for quiet. “I have a surprise,” she said to me. “I’ve asked everyone to share their favorite memory of you.”
Here come the lame jokes, I thought.
“You and I built a business together,” my dad said. “A business I’m proud of.”
My daughter Jamie said, “I’ll never forget the day you rescued our orange kitty from under the hood of the car. That little kitty was the love of my life.”
“You saved me on Highway 78,” my mother-in-law recalled. “It was a scorching day and I had a flat tire.”
“You taught me how to fish,” my son, Thomas, said. “And how to throw a football.”
“My softball games,” my daughter Katie added. “You never missed one.”
“I’ll always remember the time you bought new Bibles for your ninth-grade Sunday school class,” Julie said. “Fifteen of them. Genuine leather and you had them engraved.”
Embarrassed, I turned back to the smoker. Age 50. Is that when men start crying? The meat was done. I lifted it onto a platter, sliced it and filled the waiting plates. “Man, this smells good,” my uncle David said. That reminded me of how my buddy Andy and I had experimented with this recipe till we got it just right.
I looked around the backyard. Here I was surrounded by family and friends, by love and wonderful memories. Fifty years of blessings worth celebrating.
“Amen,” I said. “Thank y’all for coming. Now let’s eat!”
Try Rick's recipe for Smoked Pork Tenderloin!
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