Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I've posted this picture before but I don't think I ever told the story behind it. Not here anyway.

I think it was back in 2006. The Heroes Convention, after many years of dancing around it, had finally fallen on the same date as Mike's birthday, June 24th. As we were preparing for our trip down to Charlotte, Suzanne began to wonder when was the last time Mike had gotten a cake for his birthday. She got it into her head that she was going to take him one. I told her there was no outside food allowed into the convention center but she said she'd just smile nice and bright and they'd have to let her take it in to him.

The night before the trip, she whipped up a great looking Spider-Man cake in honor of Mike's on-again, off-again relationship with the wall-crawler and the next morning, we loaded it into our Suburban for the 5-hour drive to Charlotte. We left the cake uncovered, figuring it would be a quick air-conditioned drive and that would be that.

Fate had other plans.

This was before Christian and Angie started going with us so it was just the two of us. We were either listening to a book on tape or maybe one of Suzanne's mix CDs. We were making great time and had gone about halfway when we decided to stop for gas and lunch in the town of Creedmoor, just north of Mike's home in Durham. Lucky we did. After gassing up, I went to start the car and >click!<...nothing happened. Just a click. The truck was dead.

After some investigation, we determined that there was an open garage about a quarter-mile down the road. They said they'd be glad to help us out but they didn't tow. So we called AAA and after about 45 minutes, a truck showed up and towed us all of 200 yards to the garage. The driver got a few yucks out of that. It was so close I could have pushed it myself except it was up-slope.

Anyway, it turned out to be the alternator and the garage just happened to have one in stock. They promised to have us back on the road in a couple of hours. What they didn't have, though, was air conditioning. And it was pretty nasty hot. Suzanne had rescued the cake from the truck, just in case, but there was nowhere to store it. The icing had started to sweat in the heat a little and the tiny waiting room We could see it drifting heavily in the sunlight coming through the open door. There was an old TV with a UHF dial sitting on pasteboard cart in the corner. The slot for a VCR was empty and Suzanne and I looked at each other, shrugged, and she slid the cake into the slot under the TV. Problem solved.

True to their word, about two and half hours later, we were gratefully paying up and back on 85, Mike's cake safely back in the storage compartment of the Suburban. (When we got back home, Suzanne promptly sent the garage a thank-you gift of a box of gourmet cookies.) We felt, all things considered, extremely fortunate. But we'd missed almost the entire first day of the convention and were pretty sure we weren't going to get there before it closed for the day.

But Suzanne was at the wheel and we got there with about a half-hour to spare. We raced into the convention center as soon as we'd parked and picked up our badges and headed to the escalator. Where we were stopped by the security guard. Fortunately, Suzanne's smile was extra bright and, with the help of one of Shelton's volunteers, explained the situation to the guard who was actually very nice. She looked around to make sure nobody was watching and let us through with the cake.

Mike was so excited to see us and couldn't believe that Suze had made him a cake. And he really couldn't believe she'd talked her way past the guards. Suzanne cut him a slice and he scarfed it down. We both wondered if he was just being nice since Mike was known to eat things he didn't really want just to humor us. But then he ate another piece. And another. And started handing out pieces to people sitting around him. In no time, half the cake was gone.

Seeing Mike enjoying the cake Suzanne made for him is one of my favorite memories of him. Since we lived so far apart, for all I know, that was the last birthday cake Mike got. It nearly breaks my heart to think about it. But then I think how lucky it was that Suzanne chose that year to do it. And that we stopped in Creedmoor, right next to that garage. And that we got a sympathetic guard. We could have missed out on that great memory for so many reasons. But we didn't.

Happy Birthday, Mikey. We miss you more than ever.


PJ said...

That really is such a wonderful and beautiful story and Mike is still very much missed.

Leanne said...

Loved the cake story, Matt. I've seen this photo a few times but never knew the real history behind it. Thanks for sharing!

I'll be thinking of Mike today. He's still so missed.

Adam Hutch said...

That's a great story, Matt. Mike was lucky to have family like you guys.

Heywood Jablomie said...

Very touching story Matt. Thanks for sharing the memories behind the picture. Nice work by Suzanne getting you there and the cake to him past the security guard, she does have a helluva smile.

Christian D. Leaf said...

That story never gets old, my friend.

todd said...

i don't think I knew that whole story--ha!
no good deed, huh...?
wonderful post, matt!
love you guys!
talk to ya soon!
happy birthday, mike!

Squeeze said...

Best birthday cake I ever made. This was one of only three pictures we took that convention. Don't know why we didn't take more. I actually don't think I cut a slice of cake for Mike, I think I remember feeling like an idiot because I hadn't brought any plates or forks or knives. Basically leaving Mike to eat the thing with his hands. But I do remember him telling Matt he liked the cake. Funny the things you remember.

Squeeze said...

Forgot to say how much we miss Mike.

We miss you Mike! Terribly.

Paul Rogers said...

Hiya Matt & Suze! That's a fun story, I can just see Mike chomping down on that big 'ol delicious Spider-Man cake made with Love from his favorite Brother & Sister-In-Law after a long HeroesCon day! Just the right place, just the right time, just the right people. We all miss him, we all love him, we all remember him and we always will. Happy Birthday Mike, I miss you buddy. Love you guys, Paul.

Brian said...

A great story and even a greater memory.

Matt and Squeeze, I'm so glad you guys are able to look back and say, we did that rather than I wish we had done that.

Matt Wieringo said...

Hey, Paul. Sorry I missed you before you left Heroes this year. And honey, remember someone ran over to the concession area and got some plastic knives and napkins. All was well.