When I was young and green and just starting my life as a newlywed, I began to sell vintage dresses online. I’d run to the thrift store on my lunch break and sort through racks of polyester to find that one laced dress that made the entire hunt totally worth it. I’d store the wares in my basement until someone bought them, and when it was time, I’d bring them up, clean them and package them up prettily with a bow.
Though there was a post office right beside my office, I chose to drive my packages instead 30 minutes away. My dad worked behind the counter at the post office two towns away, and I loved getting the chance to surprise him. I’d bring him pastries from the nearby coffee shop and he’d duck away for a few minutes to spend time with me. I did all of this, even though our houses are two miles away from each other and I knew I’d see him later on that evening, as I always did.
I drove those extra miles to see him because he’s the absolute best. He’s quiet and a little shy, with a heart that’s pure gold.
He was the one who helped me land my first job lifeguarding at the local pool. When I was five, he taught me how to color in the lines by outlining the image in crayon first. He’d always remind me to take my time during tests by saying “You don’t get any extra points by finishing first” and I’ve kept that with me my entire life. When I had my gas station bump-up a few years ago, I called him before even notifying anyone else, and even though the phone isn’t his strong suit, he talked me through the proper steps to take, and every piece of advice he’s given me has proven true.
That was about 10 years ago. He retired from that post office in 2015, and on that day, the mayor held a major party in the town hall. We thought a handful of co-workers would show up in addition to our extended family of aunts and uncles. Boy, were we wrong. The place was packed with people who were impacted by my dad.
One elderly woman got up and recounted how the week of Christmas, at closing time, he’d stayed a little later with her to help her box up a care package for her son. Her voice shook as she relayed how much that extra time and care meant to her. Still others spoke about how dad was always so great with their children, stamping their hands with his “Spoiled” stamp that he kept behind the counter.
Then, dad got up to speak. I get my anxious energy and stammer from him, and I felt his nerves as he got up on stage. He took his time and the words flowed perfectly. He was emotional, proud, overwhelmed, and grateful.
As I watched his speech, I remembered seeing the same reaction from him back in 2005. We were all packed into a Myrtle Beach convention center. My cheerleading squad had just competed in the state championship. It had been a long day for us girls, and an even longer day for my family. We’d performed near the beginning, but we had to wait until all the routines were over before the votes were tallied.
They called our names as the winners in our division, and we did the typical excited huddle hugs. Then, I looked back at my parents. My mom was ecstatic and cheering, but my dad just had his hand over his mouth, tears streaming down. I hadn’t realized until that moment how much the outcome meant to him.
Now that I’m a parent of my own, I get it. I get how much our children are an extension of our hearts. When they hurt, we hurt. When they’re happy, so are we. That’s why we pour so much of ourselves into our babies, because we realize that ultimately, our greatest joy lies in seeing them happy, living a life they love waking up to each morning.
Even at 30, I feel that force in my life, still. I feel the very tangible impact of two people praying over me, loving me, and cheering me on. I’m doing the same for my two kids and I hope they look back on our time together, all huddled into the same tiny house, with joy and awesome memories. My parents set that foundation for me, and I’m blessed to pass on that legacy to my own family.
Forty years ago, my mom and dad met at a college party in the North Carolina mountains. Dad walked over and asked her, “Do you want a chip?”
I’m so glad she said “yes.”