This is the year of my dad's 88th birthday, 米寿 (beiju) in Japanese. Since it's a significant year, we got together to celebrate the occasion at his favorite restaurant, Dal Rae in Pico Rivera, CA. His sisters, most of the Fujimoto cousins, and my mom's sister joined us for a memorable evening.
One of the reasons Dal Rae is where my parents go for very special occasions is for the fantastic food, but equally stellar is the service. One of the servers said she had been there about (I think) 13 years, which actually marks her as a relative newcomer. It's not unusual to be served by someone with multiple decades at the restaurant. Their work is so effortless, and they exude a confidence you don't see in most places; I saw a lot of water, iced tea, and coffee being poured, all from several inches above the container, always with the glass/cup still on the table, and with no drips. The attention to detail is also notable; each piece of silverware was wiped down one more time after they had all been set at the table.
Of course, the restaurant itself was just the setting. The best part was everyone being together sharing stories and laughter. After cake, it was time for photos. We're all used to lining up in order, to the point that we just know who should be next to us. For me, it's easy because I'm the youngest, so I'm always at the end.
After dinner, some of us went over to my cousin Roger's house where he and Grace hosted us so we could chat some more. When I was younger, we used to get together much more often (several times a year), but I always was mostly an observer, being so much younger. It still feels a bit strange being one of the "big kids" but I do cherish finding out what people are up to and listening to everyone flow between reminiscing and catching up. We all feel so comfortable around each other, our personalities being so unique is never a barrier.
As the night wound down, it was easy to see that my dad had a great time. Just like he deserved.