I got a phone call last night at about 10pm from Andi while I was at the movie. At about 1am I got the message that she left for me. (I'm not sure why the delay happened) In the message she just said, "I've got something to ask you and something to tell you, so call me when you get this message." Knowing that Andi goes to bed early, I figured I would call her in the morning, however her message left me with a feeling of foreboding.
I ended up pulling an all-nighter since "Children of a Lesser God" came on at 1:30, and then my nephew was online, and then G was online. I finished up some stuff and was finally laying down at about 7:30am. I remembered that I needed to call Andi back, and knowing that Andi gets up early, I called her.
She explained that her Mom was looking through the paper and came across an obituary for Tom, the man I worked with when I was a teenager. When Andi said this, I was instantly heart-broken and started crying. Andi knew I was going to be sad, but she didn't bargain for the amount of emotion that I was showing her.
I explained through a lot of tears that although Tom and I don't talk frequently, he's one of THE most important people in my life. He's my "Other Dad."
When I was growing up in Granbury,TX, a small town of 5000 southwest of Fort Worth, I was a "Square Brat." My Mom worked at the Hood County News that was located on the town square, and after school I would go up to her work and hang out around the square until she got off work. I visited several of the businesses almost daily, and that included Polar Bear Ashburn's Ice Cream and Deli, owned by Tom. When I was old enough to work there, I applied to work at Ashburn's, and despite the fact that I was a "Square Brat," Tom hired me anyway.
During the early part of my life, my Dad and I didn't get along - AT ALL. I loved him fiercely, but I didn't like him much at all. So, when I went to work for Tom and felt what it was like to have a positive male role model, it bonded me to Tom. We shared a very special relationship and that's when I became his "Other Daughter," and he became my "Other Dad."
Tom taught me so much - not only about how to scoop ice cream or make a Ruben Sandwich, but about life. Two of the most important lessons he taught me was to not make excuses and when you screw up, you can be forgiven and given a second chance.
That second lesson was a scary one to learn, but I'll never forget it. I was given the responsibility of closing up and locking up for the day several days during the week. I walked in the next day after closing up and I could tell by the stern look on his face that something was seriously wrong with Tom. He called me back in the office and explained that I had failed to lock the front door the night before, and he had come in to the regular coffee guys already in the store and sipping on coffee they had brewed themselves. I felt for sure that I was fired after that, and I'm sure it seriously crossed Tom's mind to fire me, but he gave me another chance, and eventually he ended up promoting me to assistant manager.
Since I was in marching band on Friday nights, I always had to close on Saturday nights. I didn't mind a bit though because Saturday nights were "Pickin'" nights. I would push all the tables back away from the back wall of the store, and about 7:30, anyone who played anything - from spoons to Electric Guitar - could show up to play good old fashioned Blue Grass and Country music. Tom and his banjo led the proceedings and everyone got a turn for a solo if they wanted it. I would be behind the counter brewing coffee, scooping ice cream and dancing and singing along until I heard the first few notes of "Goodnight, Irene" which was my signal to turn out the overhead lights.
After I graduated from high school, I went off to college and other things while I still lived in Texas, but I always tried to make it back to Granbury on Saturday nights to see Tom when I could. We often couldn't talk much, but he would see me, wink and smile at me and when the song was over, come over and hug me tightly.
Last summer I visited Texas and was able to visit Tom. He no longer runs Ashburn's, having moved on to a very successful durable medical equipment business. I was able to get him all to myself as we went and got some bar-b-que for lunch. We hadn't seen each other in years, but it only took us a few minutes to feel relaxed with each other again. We sat across the table from each other and shared some things that made both of our eyes wet at times, and we probably hugged 3 or 4 times before he had to get back to work. It was one of those special and golden times that stays in the memory bank forever.
After I hung up the phone with Andi, I cried my eyes out for a while. I called G and he listened to me cry until he was able to get me to agree to get some sleep. I woke up several times and finally got out of bed and tried to find Tom's obituary online. I couldn't find it in the Granbury or the Ft. Worth paper. Should I try calling Tom's cell phone? Should I try calling Tom's wife? Tom had gone to the same church in Granbury for well over 25 years. I looked on the church website and there was no mention of Tom.
G called to check up on me and asked me if I had contacted anyone about Tom. I sheepishly replied that I was afraid to call anyone because if it was true that Tom had died, it would make it real. I knew that was totally illogical, but I couldn't help feeling that way.
Finally, I called Andi's Mom and reluctantly asked her about the obituary. It turns out it wasn't MY Tom! It was another Tom who happened to own a yogurt shop. I am so sorry for the other Tom's family, but I'M SO GLAD IT'S NOT MY OTHER DAD! HE'S STILL ALIVE!!! Needless to say, I'm elated, but exhausted!
I think this is a very good lesson of how important it is to let people know how much you love them and care about them NOW. We never know what tomorrow may bring. If "my" Tom had passed away, I feel very certain that he would have known how much he means to me and how much I love him. However, I have been blessed with another chance to tell him! TOM: I love you and I appreciate you so much. Thank you for being my "Other Dad" and allowing me the privilege of being your "Other Daughter!"