By Reader's Digest Editors
Kagan McLeod for Reader's Digest
FIRST IN FLIGHT
by Kay Lockridge, Santa Fe, New Mexico
The little Cessna had just cleared the pattern in its climb to 1,500 feet when my father said, “OK, we can land now.” With my newly minted private pilot’s license in hand, I had wanted him to be my first non-instructor passenger. I’d planned to circle the Michigan State University campus and come back to the university‑owned airport. I reminded him of this, and I’ll never forget what Dad said, more than 40 years ago: “I’m not fond of small planes. I just wanted you to know that I have confidence in you.”
“TALKING IS LIKE KETCHUP”
by Carmen Mariano, Braintree, Massachusetts
I sat in my dad’s living room reading one night while he watched television. An hour passed before I realized it, and I felt bad for not speaking during that time. I asked if he was OK, and he said yes. Then I apologized for not talking more. “Carmen,” Dad replied. “Talking is like ketchup. If you like the meat enough, you don’t need the ketchup—and if you like the company enough, you don’t need the conversation.” My dad never earned a college degree, but he was the smartest person I ever knew.
THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO FAMILY
by Rachel O’Connor, Westtown, New York
“Linda, look at the map!” My father slammed on the brakes, glaring at my mom. He didn’t believe in excessive planning, and so each summer we embarked on a spontaneous family road trip that didn’t always go smoothly. There were lots of late-night panics to find hotels, stops to ask for directions, and elevated tempers. One night, we picked up a hitchhiker somewhere in Kentucky. As we blasted the radio and my dad bought us all ice cream, the hitchhiker told me he’d give his life to have what I had.
BIG SHOES TO FILL
by Theresa Arnold, Tioga, Texas
I cleaned out Dad’s closet yesterday. There were two things I couldn’t box up: his work shirts and his two pairs of Red Wing boots. He couldn’t remember birthdays or anniversaries, but he remembered the date on which he’d bought his first pair. I remember it too—April 16, the day after Tax Day. What does a child do with her dad’s favorite boots? I think I will make a planter out of them or use them to store something valuable. You can’t throw away a man’s favorite boots. You’ve got to keep them and pass them down.
DAD’S SECRET SPOT
by Lucia Paul, Plymouth, Minnesota
My dad was a gardener before it was cool. He would proudly tell people, “I can grow just about anything.” He could—except for my beloved lilacs. He tried everything, with no luck or lilacs to show for his efforts. One night when I was a teen, it was raining in that way it does in Minnesota in April: violent and cleansing. I heard the creak of the side door, and he stood soaking wet, etched with scratches, holding an abundance of lilacs. “I found a secret lilac spot,” he said. “It wasn’t easy, but I got them.” That’s how he got everything.
by Nancy Perkins, St. Johns, Michigan
My dad died unexpectedly at age 78, leaving our family heartbroken. During the funeral mass, my sister felt her phone vibrate in her purse. She was a little surprised that someone would be calling her, knowing she was at dad’s funeral mass. Afterward, she found there was a message: “Hi, this is your dad,” said the male voice. “I wanted to let you know I made it home.” The caller obviously had the wrong number, but the message was clear. My dad had completed his journey to heaven and wanted us to know. Thanks, Dad—until we meet again.
THERE’S ALWAYS A FIRST
by Debbie Gunn, Bothell, Washington
My dad delivered bread for a living. We enjoyed each other’s company, so he’d drive home at lunchtime and I’d go with him. One day, we delivered to a large grocery store. When we pulled in back, the manager saw me and said, “I heard it’s your birthday, so go pick out anything in our toy aisle free.” I excitedly grabbed some paper dolls, but the big surprise was still ahead. Dad, the store manager, and the employees stood with a huge lit cake, singing me “Happy Birthday.” I’d turned seven, and this was my first-ever birthday party. Thanks, Dad!
by Mary Ellen Raneri, Latrobe, Pennsylvania
My dad sat straight up in bed and smiled at me. Even though his mouth was crusted with fever sores, he grinned a big grin from his unshaven face. Dementia had completely taken him from me—or so I thought, until he spoke to me. “Honey,” Dad almost seemed to sing the words. “What are you doing here?” My throat muscles ached from trying to talk and not cry. Choking back my tears, I half-sobbed, “Daddy, I’m here to especially see you. I love you, you know.” “Me too, honey,” he whispered. Then, still smiling, Daddy fell asleep.
HOW I LEARNED THE VALUE OF WORK
by Rudy Berdine, Irvine, California
My dad owned a fruit market on a busy street. The sidewalk in front of his store collected dust and trash, which needed to be swept daily. At age six, I used to hide behind bags of potatoes when my dad asked me to sweep, but while sweeping one day, I began to find dollar bills under the dust and trash. I had no idea where the money came from. My dad had been putting money on the sidewalk—and soon, I was happy to sweep even when no money was found.
A LESSON IN PATIENCE
by Robert Cronce, Brown City, Michigan
In the spring of 1960, I was riding with my dad on his milk route. He spotted a small turtle crossing the road, stopped to pick it up, and put in the glove compartment. He told me not to play with it until we got home. Of course, when he got back to the truck at our subsequent stop to pick up milk cans, I was crying over a fresh bite on my finger. The moral of the story: It’s wise to follow instructions. And if you are going to poke something, use a stick instead of your finger.
RICH IN CHARACTER
by Angely Mercado, Ridgewood, New York
My dad grew up in a peasant family in Puerto Rico. He had to work on a farm and didn’t have time for homework. When he arrived to class early one day, the professor informed him that he had the highest score in the district’s math exams. Dad told me that since he wasn’t a rich person’s child, no one cared: He was a jíbaro who showed up to school with dusty shoes. That was when I decided to keep achieving as much as I could in writing, even after graduation. I’d immortalize him. I owe him that much.
LOOK IT UP
by Saurav Thapa, Bangalore, India
I was reading an article in the newspaper when I came across a word I didn’t know. “Dad, what is the meaning of the word ostensibly?” My dad, as he usually did after work, was watching his favorite show. “You have a dictionary, don’t you?” he shot back. He didn’t even look at my face. I went back to my room, and there on my study table was that dictionary. Ten years have passed and I still use that dictionary, along with the lesson I received early in life from my old man: to be self-sufficient.
by Betty Plough, Traverse City, Michigan
As a young girl, I treasured the times I could go places with my dad. Working for a funeral home in the lower peninsula of Michigan, he had to deliver bodies to funeral homes in the upper peninsula. You had to take a car ferry to get there, and the wait in line was always long. We were in a black station wagon with a body in back covered by a sheet. I can still see the looks on people’s faces as they passed our car and glanced in the windows. It’s one of my most memorable trips with Dad.
DAD CAME THROUGH
by Katharine DiGiovanne, Scranton, Pennsylvania
In 2002, my dad’s company expanded its territory, requiring him to travel more. On average, he was away for ten days each month. My mom struggled to work a full-time job and raise three children alone. Since the private school I attended didn’t provide transportation, my parents enrolled me in public school. My dad missed my first day of school and I got bullied, which caused me to act out. He picked me up after I served my third Saturday detention, and he didn’t go to work the next week.