Miles, milestones and one great man

You can measure the love in my brother in-law Keith’s life in some pretty tangible ways, like how many people crowded into his house to wish him a Happy Birthday Saturday night and how many miles they drove to get there.

For instance, his niece Sheneta and her family drove more than 1500 miles from Deerfield Beach, Florida to Glendale, Wisconsin to attend the party and then, immediately afterward, piled back in their van to drive home. Nobody drives north from Florida to Wisconsin in December and, having made that ridiculously long drive, no one turns right around and makes it again.

That’s love, man. 

Friends, family and friends who consider themselves family all made their way to Keith and my sister Kathy’s house to celebrate a man who has impacted more lives than he’ll ever know.

“I didn’t want to have a 70th birthday party,” he said just after blowing out the candles on his giant cake. “But Traveain told me to just roll with it. So I did.”

Traveain, Keith’s youngest son, and Kathy planned the shindig, eventually with Keith’s blessing.

With great food, generous drinks, perfect playlists and five generations of family, the party acted as a joyful metaphor for its honoree.

Keith defines family generously and treats each member with respect. We tease him for his flip phone and fanny pack/belt bag, but we know he’s way cooler than we’ll ever be.

He has a great smile that grew wider as the night wore on and he welcomed more guests — new neighbors, old friends, fellow teachers and friends they met during their weekly trips to the Saint Paul Fish Company for Wednesday night crab legs.

It was fun to see him circulate through groups, laughing about old memories and making new ones.

Happy birthday Keith and thanks for inviting us to your party!

Left to right are Keith and Kathy’s neighbor Ruth, Keith’s son Keith junior, Keith’s niece Sheneta, Keith, Sheneta’s son Shariff and Keith’s son Terrell.
Granny Thelma and Grandma Peggy.
Kathy, Keith and KJ (Keith III)
Suzy, Keith and Bob, friends Kathy and Keith met through teaching.
Grandma Peggy and Terrell junior.
I mean, come on! How adorable is this? Sheneta brought five of her granddaughters, including these cuties.
Granddaughter Jameela, Keith and her husband Rashaud.
My sister Jenny, her daughter Erin and Keith.
My brother, his wife Robin, daughters Rachel and Olivia, my sister Jenny and Keith.
There was a lot of hugging.
A lot of candles.
A lot of good wishes
A lot of fun
And a lot of love.
And this cutie, who was working hard to get us all to sing happy birthday.
And, eventually, we did.