September 1st is a special day in my family. And not just because it's 23 days before my birthday (I have a list of things I'd like if you need gift ideas, by the way . . . ). No, September 1st is special to us because it is my sweet daddy's birthday.
And he would have been 67 today.
As most of you know, my dad passed away 5 years ago. Man - I hear myself say that number and I can't believe it's been that long. I honestly don't know how the world keeps turning without him in it. He was the kind of dad who could pull off cheesy one-liners in front of your friends but still be cool. The kind of dad who would scratch your back for 5 hours if you wanted him to and somehow his arm would never fall asleep. He was the kind of dad who would come upstairs to wake you up in the mornings and didn't mind if you asked for "five more minutes" 20 times - he'd just come back upstairs every few minutes like your own personal snooze button and never complain. He was the kind of dad who would come home with Luden's cough drops and a milkshake if he heard you weren't feeling well. He was the kind of dad who would watch your back-to-school fashion shows, even if the Cowboys were playing. And he was the kind of dad who leaves a huge hole when he passes away . . . nothing could ever take his place or fill that void. Not in a million years.
Wow - this is an uplifting blog so far . . .
My dad died just about a month before his 62nd birthday so, of course, when that day rolled around for us, we prepared for a very hard day. But my mom had a great idea that first year on how to make his birthday a happy day, rather than a sad one - she suggested that we go find people who do nice things for others - just like my dad always did - and give them a reward. So we headed up to the mall and handed $20 bills to people we saw doing things that reminded us of our dad - opening the door for others, letting someone go ahead of him on the escalator, or just being thoughtful to those around him. Then we all walked over to the Cheesecake Factory and talked about all the fun people we had found and given money to.
And we loved it so much that we've made it a tradition.
Our tradition has evolved just a bit over the years. Now we write out a card that talks about our dad and what we're doing to celebrate his birthday. This year, it said: "I lost my Dad (father-in-law/husband/grandpa) five years ago. He always inspired us to be thoughtful, kind and concerned with the needs of others. So every September 1st we celebrate his birthday by looking for people who possess the same qualities that made him so special to all who knew him. You did something today that reminded me of him and I wanted you to have this little treat so you would know I think you're special, too! Thanks for being part of my Dad's birthday celebration." Then we put a $20 bill in the card so that the person gets their reward and a little explanation for why they're getting it. Once we've got our money and our cards in our envelopes, we head up to the mall to go find our do-gooders. And once we all hand out our cards, we head over to eat somewhere and tell each other our stories from the evening. It's such a great way to celebrate my dad's birthday in a way that makes it a fun night that we all look forward to and enjoy. I think he would be proud.
So tonight, we continued our tradition. We met up at the mall, envelopes in hand, and immediately split up so that we could divide and conquer. The kids decided to walk the mall with me, of course, because I am the favorite aunt. And because I always buy them a cookie in the food court. But I'm sure it was MOSTLY because I'm the favorite aunt. You just can't over think it . . .
ANYWAY . . . the kids and I took off on our journey to find someone worthy of our envelopes. We walked up the mall. We walked down the mall. We walked upstairs. We walked downstairs. And all we found was a whole lotta nothin'. So we decided to go outside to this little outdoor shopping area that's part of the mall and over to Barnes & Noble. We had found a nice lady there last year so the kids kept saying "We need to go to Barnes & Noble because there are just nice people EVERYWHERE over there!" So we headed that way and walked around the store hoping to find someone doing something nice. Unfortunately, all we found was a manager who seemed to be watching us suspiciously. We walked around a while but had no luck so the kids decided we should head back over to the main part of the mall. On our way out the door, a lady held the door for us so Ben and Avery immediately wanted to give her their shared card. So we turned around to give her her prize. Unfortunately, though, she was on her phone so I told the kids that we needed to wait until she was off her phone before we accosted her.
That's when I realized that Ben should never have a career in espionage.
He would run up to the lady until he was about 2 feet from her and then he'd stop abruptly, all the while staring right at her. Then she'd walk a few feet away and he'd run toward her and stop again. She finally got off her phone and then promptly ducked into the restroom. I was concerned that she might be trying to escape from a window in the bathroom, convinced that Ben was part of some unorthodox bookstore Russian spy ring. But, to my relief, she came back out and Ben and Avery were able to give her their reward for opening the door for us.
So we continued on our search, looking for a worthy recipient for my card and for Savannah and Emma's shared card. Savannah declared that she did NOT want to give their card to someone who opened the door for people - she wanted to find someone different to give their card to. And just then Emma spotted a man who was opening the door for several people so she took off and stopped him so that she could give him their card. Since Savannah had wanted to find someone doing something other than opening a door, I let Emma give the man my card. She did a great job of telling him what we were doing and why we were doing it: she explained that her grandfather had passed away and that today was his birthday and that we were out looking for people who do nice things for others. When she was finished, you could tell that he was very touched by what we were doing. And that's when he told Emma that HIS father had died a few years ago and that HIS father's birthday was ALSO September 1st! What a small world! So we were pretty happy that we had picked such a special person to receive Emma's card . . .
After that, we headed back into the mall and started walking around looking for someone to give Savannah's card to. We weren't having any luck downstairs so we thought we'd head upstairs in the elevator to see if we'd have any luck up there. As we approached the elevator, a young couple and their kids were getting on the elevator and then the doors started closing. The young father saw that we were walking up so he stuck his arm out real fast and stopped the doors from closing all the way. I had visions of his arm getting severed but, alas, he was able to open the doors for us without losing a limb in the process. Savannah's response was to stare at him awkwardly and say things like "Say it, Catchy. Tell him." I gathered from that that she had decided to give her card to this miraculously two-armed man. So that's exactly what we did!
When we had all given our envelopes away, we all met up so that we could walk over to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. My brother-in-law Brian wasn't going to be able to join us for dinner so he told us his story real quick. He had seen a couple walking with their baby and he struck up a conversation with them. That's when he discovered that they had just adopted their baby from Nigeria and he felt that they deserved his card because of the loving and long-term commitment that they had decided to make with their new baby. Unfortunately, he did NOT follow my instructions and text me his picture of his lucky envelope recipients so I don't have any picture. Everyone join me in saying "Bad Brian! That's a BAAAAAAD Brian!"
So Brian headed on to his business meeting and the rest of us headed over to dinner. Once we sat down, we started telling each other all of our stories. As you can imagine, we get very animated in our story-telling:
And we're very attentive:
And we thoroughly enjoy our evening together. Every year.
Here are the other stories we heard tonight . . .
The recipient of my card and $20 was a young employee named Andie who worked at the sporting goods store Fanzz. I went into the store the first time and she stopped what she was doing and made sure to ask me how I was doing, and if I needed help finding anything. She wasn't just being polite, she was going out of her way to make sure she could be the best employee possible. She made the customer service at Chick-Fil-A look spotty but I wasn't ready just yet to give her my reward. I walked the mall for another hour but couldn't find anyone else doing a good deed. I went back into Fanzz again and Andie was just as nice as the time before. When I told her my story and gave her the card, she told me to leave the store because she was about to cry. Andie is a great employee, but more importantly, a great person.
Matt and I were walking through the mall when we saw a couple walking towards the elevator and the man instantly reminded us of my dad. Why, you ask?? Because he was loaded down with all of his wife's shopping bags, of course!! He was so sweet and even stopped to make sure she went first down the escalator. We immediately jumped on the escalator and followed them down and accosted them Palmore style. They were both so surprised to be singled out for something that comes so naturally to them, which made it even more fun to give it to him. Before I got started, I asked him if that was his animal print dress he was carrying, because if it was, it would have made him carrying it a little less special!! I just told him about how my dad always treated my mom like a queen and would carry her things for her also. His wife jumped in and said that he always opens all of her doors and spoils her any way he can, so I was just so excited to give it to someone so much like my daddy. They both thanked me profusely and told us to have a blessed day and Matt and I both walked away feeling so good.
From my mom:
My first card went to the cutest little girl. She looked to be about 4 and she was with her even younger cousin. I was about to get on an escalator when I noticed the two girls getting on with their mothers right behind them. The 4 year old (Asia) had an arm around the younger girl (Amiyah) as they ever-so-carefully stepped onto the escalator. Then all the way down, Asia not only kept her arm around her little cousin to keep her safe but also held her chubby little hand. When they reached the bottom Asia made sure that Amiyah jumped off so as not to catch her little sandals in the machinery. I was trying to hurry down behind them when I spotted Matt and Erin walking near the bottom so I yelled for Erin and pointed to the girls at the bottom. She knew right away what I needed so she stopped the moms and waited 2 minutes for me so I could explain. I told little Asia how sweet and caring she was to her cousin and how proud I was of her. I handed her the envelope and told her she could get a treat with it. Amiyah immediately looked at me and asked "where's mine?"!
(Editor's note: I'm PRETTY sure those kids were NOT named Andre and Andrew. Oh, Nora . . .)
After trolling the mall for an hour or so, I decided to head up to the food court & scope things out. On my way I ran into Mom & we decided to walk together.....she had already given her $20 away & didn't hold out much hope for giving away the $50 hat prize. After seeing several guys sitting/eating with hats on, I saw a tall cowboy walk in....wearing a big ol' cowboy hat. I told Mom right away "that's my cowboy right there & he's gonna take off his hat!" Well, we waited for a long time for he & his group to get their food and sit down. In the meantime, Mom had found a little boy to give the special "hat reward" to. After talking to the little boy & his family, we turned around to leave & there right in front of me was my cowboy......sitting at a table with his hat OFF!!! I was so excited!! A true cowboy will ALWAYS remove his hat at the table! I decided that I would give my card to him. Mom & I swooped in on him & his girlfriend & just sat right down at their table. The first thing I said was "I gotta know why you took off your hat". He said "because I'm sitting at the table." I told him how excited I was to hear that & then explained about Dad. When we first sat down I thought he seemed kinda fierce, but as soon as I started explaining I could see that he was moved by our story. He said his Grandfather helped raise him & he still remembers him coming home to lunch from the oil fields & taking his hat off before he sat down to eat. He was a really super nice guy & talked to us a little about how he had broken his leg in 4 places!! And how that had really created some hardships, but that he has a family that loves him. He also said that hearing our story & how we have chosen to remember Dad gave him hope.....the spirit of our gesture gave him hope. Loved him.......super nice man!!!!!
And, as seems to be our luck every year, we had the nicest, most patient waiter waiting on us and putting up with our obnoxiousness and our repeated requests for more cheese, more bread, and more Diet Coke. I think the Lord gives us a nice waiter each year so that we can end our night on the perfect note. So a big thanks to Mike for putting up with us!
And, don't worry - we gave Mike a little reward, too! He deserved one!
So that's it. That's the recap of our celebration of the most wonderful man you could ever know. I hope that the people we met tonight will take the time to really read our cards and understand what we were trying to say to them. Because tonight we compared them to our dad. And that's the highest compliment we could ever pay.
So happy birthday, Dad!!
It was fun to see you in so many faces tonight . . .