Several years ago, we had a flood in our basement. Although we lost a lot of “stuff,” the thing that I was most worried about was the box of cards and letters to and from my dad that I had been storing there. Thankfully, most were recovered, albeit crinkled, smudged and water marked. There were letters I wrote when I went to school in London, Father’s Day, Birthday and Christmas cards that he saved and I found in his drawer after he died.
Reading them again recently reminded me of things I hadn’t thought about in a while. For instance, my sisters and I used to call our dad’s repeated stories, warnings and advice, “tapes,” because he would play them back over and over again! We’d make up numbers for them. Like Tape 25: The story about his being a young entrepreneur, selling his horse’s manure to neighbors so he could buy his first car. Tape 57: How he walked to school in the snow - uphill, probably barefoot - with a hot potato in his pocket to keep his hands warm and later would eat it for lunch. (That was his story to illustrate how lucky we were to always have food to eat and parents to drive us to school when we missed the bus!) Funny as they were at times, these “tapes” were always meant to share some bit of wisdom with his daughters.
As I dug through my hope chest today in search of inspiration for my pre-Father’s Day newsletter, I hoped I’d find a card he gave me for my 21st birthday. I remembered it looked like a candy bar with a pocket for money — only my dad enclosed a check for the remaining balance of my college tuition. Talk about a gift! I was so happy when I found this card because the best parts of who my dad was in life really come through.
To this day, his message moves me and I hope it will inspire you, too.
Here it is, word for word:
January 9, 1985
Happy 21st Birthday. This check represents the last 12.5% of your education.
Over the last 21 years, I have tried to show you love, care and understanding,
but most of all help you build up your self esteem by allowing you to learn
through your own experiences.
Life is only what you put into it. My mother used to say to me, “Sky’s the limit.”
It always helped me keep my sights set high. So I’ll pass the same advice
on to you. Carrie, you have everything it takes to reach the top. So go for it!
Happy 21st Birthday!