Norm’s eightieth birthday

Letter N: Fourteenth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

The year my dad, Norm Charboneau, turned 80, our family threw him a surprise birthday party a little ahead of the big event at a lovely restaurant near my parents’ home outside Syracuse, N.Y. Dad had a great time — and so many of us turned out from far and wide that we had to take the group photo in two parts to fit everyone in.

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Labor Day Mystery book cover (2005). When he turned 80, my dad Norm Charboneau started blogging and finished up the process of self-publishing his mystery book, which was set in the Adirondacks in the 1940s. Photo by Molly Charboneau

This meant that on his actual 80th birthday — besides celebrating with Mom — Dad was left to his own devices. And as always, he had a plan.

“Today I drove over to Carol’s Polar Parlor, ordered a banana split with everything on it and ate the whole thing myself,” he announced proudly when I called to say Happy Birthday.

Norm felt this was the most suitable way to mark eight decades of a pretty active life — and to anticipate two major octogenarian projects he had in the works.

Chabonews blog

One month later,  Norm started blogging — designing and launching his blog Charbonews all on his own, with a full bio, photos, the works. I have always loved my dad’s forward looking, let’s-try-a-new-challenge attitude — and starting a blog at the ripe old age of 80 was certainly an inspiring act.

Norm wrote short pieces — more as an online journal whenever the mood struck him — about his home town, Elderhostel trips with my mom, and even a post titled Famous Relative? about our family history. Dad had a mini marketing plan, too — emailing family and friends to alert them to blog posts. Like I said, way ahead of his time.

Labor Day Mystery: A Red Flannel Yarn

Norm’s other landmark project, which he was finishing up as he turned 80, was self publishing his book Labor Day Mystery: A Red Flannel Yarn — set in the fictional town of Panther Lake and featuring an amateur sleuth Red Flanneau (aka Red Flannel) loosely based on himself.

Dad modeled other characters and plot lines after friends, family and events from his home town — Otter Lake, Oneida County, N.Y. — to create a murder mystery true to its North Country setting.

Mom and I shared the spoiler alert of reviewing and giving feedback on the manuscript, while Dad handled all the publishing arrangements. Then, like any good publicist, Norm emailed his list and did a blog post alerting us when the book was out — and also made sure that family members got a copy.

Some day, with luck and healthy living, we could all turn 80. When my time comes, I hope I am still writing, blogging and living life to the fullest — though perhaps without the banana split — just like my dad Norm was doing on his 80th birthday.

Up next: Oneonta: City of surprises. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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10 thoughts on “Norm’s eightieth birthday”

    1. My dad has been so much a part of my genealogy journey, as well. So it is gratifying to share some of his own late-in-life accomplishments!

  1. What an inspirational Dad! My Dad was another Norman but although he lived to 84, he never used a computer and due to emphysema his daily life was restricted.

  2. This was so great. I love that your dad enjoyed himself so much on his birthday. Also, A+ on publishing his story. Sounds like he is living with no regrets.

    1. Thanks, Akilah. His book was a great lifetime achievement for Dad, and his descriptions of Adirondack life in the 1940s provides a true-to-life rendition of how our ancestors lived in New York’s North Country.

  3. Sounds like my dad. He just about cut his fingers off on the saw while refinishing some furniture when he was in his early 80’s. Since he couldn’t play golf or tennis he did something he said he’d never do and learned his way around a computer, calling anyone who was around for help. Thank goodness he did, because now that he is gone we are left with an over 200 page book of memoirs that he wrote, including photos.

    1. Fabulous story, Dianne, and kudos to your dad for leaving a memoir. The outline of a family’s history can be gleaned from the records we discover. But a memoir is a precious gift that tells an ancestor’s story in their own voice. What a wonderful legacy your dad left for you and your family.

  4. OH Norm sounds AMAZING! What a role model. I, too, look forward to my 80th birthday – minus the banana split. I may go for a big heap of pizza fries or something. Since there is 30 years to think about it, I’m sure I’ll think of something awesome. And when I do I hope I remember Norm and others like him who have such a wonderful sense of life and people. Great post, thanks for sharing! Enjoy the rest of the A to Z Challenge…we are now more than 1/2 way through…

    1. Thanks, Donna. Since you are blogging about midlife, you can appreciate the value of a positive outlook like my dad’s. Best of luck with the next half of the A to Z Challenge. I’ll try to stop by for a visit!

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