Edward Setmeyer turned 81 this month … and he celebrated Father’s Day for the first time in more than a decade.
“I helped Ed’s daughter, Pam Buckley, plan a long-distance surprise birthday party for him here at The Lodge,” said Kate Murawski, director of residential marketing at Harbour Manor & The Lodge, a CarDon & Associates senior living community in Noblesville.
And when Ed walked into his party, he got the biggest surprise of all.
“We revealed his children had been in contact with us to plan him a surprise birthday party, and they were flying out to visit him the following week,” Murawski said. “All the balloons and cakes were sent by his family, along with handwritten cards.”
Setmeyer hadn’t been in contact with his son and daughter, Doug and Pam, in more than 10 years. When his wife passed away in 2015, he moved to the Indianapolis area from Illinois to live with a cousin.
“Eventually, I decided it would be better to start looking for my own place,” he said. “I looked at three different places, but I knew right away I wanted to be at The Lodge. I really liked the atmosphere — lots of things to do and people to talk to. I wanted to be somewhere where I wasn’t going to just be a bump on a log. Kate (Murawski) was also a big part of why I chose to move here. I could tell she was special.”
It was Murawski and fellow coworker Michelle Federman who befriended Setmeyer and learned more of the story about his family.
“Ed was lamenting the fact he didn’t have contact with his kids, and during the course of several conversations, Kate and Michelle encouraged him to reach out and see if he could find us,” Buckley said. “Michelle found Doug through an online search, called him and said ‘I am calling on behalf of your dad who is living in a senior living community in Indiana, and he wanted to reach out to you and your sister; he wants you to come down here and meet with him.’”
The word got from Doug to Pam, and Buckley contacted Murawski for more information about their dad.
“I realized my dad missed his family and was looking to open the door,” she said. “He was genuinely looking to reconnect, and so Doug made plans to fly from California to my home in Chicago, and we planned to make the trip down to The Lodge together.”
In the meantime, Setmeyer’s 81st birthday was at the beginning of June — before his kids would be able to see him — so Buckley helped plan a special birthday party for him.
“I wanted him to feel good; I wanted to set the stage even before we got there to say everything’s going to be fine, we’ve missed you and we want to celebrate you and get to know you again,” Buckley said.
“Pam worked with Kate to plan the whole thing,” Setmeyer said. “She sent six cakes — each cake I tasted was better than the last. The family also sent me birthday balloons and a plant I keep on my table. It was fantastic! I didn’t expect a party at all, let alone a party planned by my family.”
Setmeyer learned about the upcoming reunion with his kids — and also he had a new great-granddaughter who was only 10 weeks old.
“We haven’t had a relationship for about 10 years,” Setmeyer said. “That is why I was so excited to see them and just hug them.”
A week later when he finally saw Pam and Doug for the first time in many years, it was truly a special moment.
“I sat by the fireplace all morning, waiting for them to arrive,” Setmeyer said. “Just seeing Pam and Doug walk toward me, and then being able to hug them — that was the best part. We went to lunch, spent time catching up and went through a whole bunch of family photos … I can’t believe I’m a great-grandfather! Having them show up to visit was a dream I had but never expected to be fulfilled.”
Setmeyer and Buckley have made plans for him to travel up to Chicago to spend a weekend visiting with her husband and meeting the grandchildren and, of course, his great-granddaughter.
“I want to be a family again. Birthdays, Christmas, Easter — I want to spend all of those times together. I am most excited to just be a part of something,” Setmeyer said.
Ed and his family thank Kate and Michelle at The Lodge for all they did to support him through the journey — from the initial contact with his kids to their encouragement toward reconciliation.
“They have worked with my dad every step of the way since we made contact with him several weeks ago,” Buckley said. “If it wasn’t for them, we probably wouldn’t have had this reunion.”
“We are so glad Ed ended up here with us,” Murawski said. “We wanted to help him get back in touch with his children. Ed calls us his angels, but I felt like it was fate. Pam is a very positive person and loving daughter. She and her brother have missed having a relationship with their father. They want him to feel only love and happiness during the time they have left together.”
“I just don’t want to miss anything from now on,” Setmeyer said. “You never know what tomorrow brings, and that’s why this time together is so important.”