The Mamea family had a get-together earlier this year. With almost all of his progeny in one room, my father announced that this year he was turning 90 years and he expected a full and proper celebration. In the (brief) silence that followed, my siblings and I exchanged looks, jaws mid-chew, our mouths full of food.

Our father has always had good timing.

The thing is… we’d celebrated his 80th in 2006, which meant we’d all forgotten that last year, 2016, should’ve been his 90th birthday. But we hadn’t really forgotten because somewhere along the line, someone had unearthed this document:

He’s not officially 90 for another two years. He snuck in his 80th three years early.

“What’s with the numbers?” the numerically-bonded amongst you ask. “How could we forget his 90th birthday?” the emotionally-integrated amongst you cry out.

We did that 80th shindig on his say-so, and in the intervening years a fog of confusion has grown where official documents say this, our father says that — and our father’s answers have differed slightly with each asking/confirmation. Also, he’s 80-plus, for pete’s sake; his birthday/s was/were almost a century ago now, and, for a large part of his adult life, birthdays were irrelevant.

Some might say there’s a rich vein of family history here. For my siblings and I, it was another memorable moment in the life of being a Mamea.

Wearing my writer helmet, there’s an interesting character feature here that might come in handy at some point. Not the obvious age-defining-character angle, but more how multiple birthdates — all equally valid — inform backstory. A lot (could have) happened in that two to three year gap between my father’s possible birthdays: he was born either before or during the Great Depression; he was born either before or during the rise of the Mau movement in Samoa. The timing of his arrival on this planet could make a world of difference in his upbringing and character.

Like anyone and everyone else, both real and imagined, there’s more to Pater Mamea than meets the eye. It just requires some thought and a little patience.

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