One of my favorite memories of my father was the time he helped prepare me for my 7th grade city-wide spelling bee. I had won the spelling bee in my 6th grade year back in Pennsylvania, and now that we were in a new school in Ohio, he was over the top elated that I had won the spelling bee in the 7th grade and would now represent my school for the big spelling bee.
We spent hours going over words. After a long day of work at the brick yard, every night after dinner we’d sit in the kitchen and practice spelling words I had memorized earlier in the day. We meticulously and consistently practiced our words leading up to the big night.
I remember us driving up to Westgate Junior High School and parking. I went to the back where the competitors were to meet. Sitting up on that stage I looked out onto what appeared to be a dark cavernous auditorium, as all the lighting was focused on the stage.
The spelling bee competition started promptly. After a few spellers in that first round came my turn. I nervously walked to the mike and was given my word. I promptly commenced to spell – g – a- l – l – a- r – y. “That is incorrect”, bellowed the voice in the microphone. I returned to my seat, deflated and a little embarrassed for missing such an easy word. I sat through the rest of the spelling bee a little dazed. My mind wandered through the rest of the Bee until it was over and I reunited with Dad.
As I reflect on that time it didn’t matter that I had not won. The best memories were formed in the time Dad and I spent together going over those words.
Many years later, after poring over much more difficult words to complete a doctoral degree, my best friend Helen and my brother Joe hosted a graduation party for me back in my hometown. My brother-in-law Bruce captured the processional in which I entered the banquet hall with my parents, brother and friends. Dad and mom walked in front of my brother and me.
Every time I see that picture, I see the proud papa that my Dad was. His time spent helping me with words twenty or so years earlier, may not have paid off in the form of a trophy my seventh-grade year. But in the long run that time and may many others spent talking, sharing, verbally sparring paid off in a daughter who is eternally grateful for her Dad.
Happy Father’s Day.