Our first post in our Reflection series is actually reflections from my childhood, years before I would become Mrs. Tom Walter. I wrote this the year after my Dad died, which you’ll hear more about tomorrow.
From June 2004:
Father’s Day is approaching and the memories are bidding me to take a walk with them down familiar paths. I am reluctant, but decide early on that these little jaunts are what give life meaning and make difficulties bearable.
Our town was small. Being the daughter of the neighborhood druggist, I witnessed first-hand how to care for those in trying times. The store opened in the summer of ’61. I was two. My Mom took care of the books, while my Dad took care of the customers. There were longs days and many long nights. It was a time when honesty and integrity were the store managers and love and compassion were the employees. Often customers would thank my dad for being there for them. Affectionately they called him “Doc”. He had a way of not only helping what ailed them, but he put a smile on their faces by joking with them. He was one of the most respected men in our community because he was there for people in their struggles and came along side them to offer care and concern.
Being available was something for which my dad never complained. He offered 24-hour service to anyone in need of medication, even if it was an over-the-counter drug. He would sleep at night next to the telephone and often it would ring. It was normal to hear him up in the night going to meet someone at the pharmacy. Life revolved around the store and many of my fondest memories took place in that small building on Silver Star Road.
The sounds of juicy hamburgers sizzling on the grill, large french fries in the hot fryer and thick milkshakes whirring in the Hamilton Beach milk shake machine; laughter from the cash register and phones ringing behind the counter; these are the sounds that still ring fresh in my memory. For my young eyes, the toy aisle never disappointed me. My job was to help my dad order the best and newest toys of the season. Each year I would pick one toy that I wanted as payment for help; there were Barbie dolls with the trendiest accessories and Clackers: two glass, marbleized balls suspended from a string, which took our town by storm. I loved Clackers, and my arms had the bruises to prove my devotion. My taste buds found delight at the candy counter. It seemed endless in the varieties available to my cravings, and my cavities proved that I was a dedicated sampler of its offerings.
“Our pills are your pals,” was the store’s motto, and it was displayed on the magnetic signs that hung from both sides of the white Volkswagen bug, that served as the delivery car. Young men in our town would apply for the job of driving that little car; making free deliveries to the families too sick or too old to come to the store. The car never had a radio, as my dad wanted to insure that the boys worked hard representing our store well. They were required to wear a tie, even though there was no air-conditioning in the car that traveled around the hot, Florida streets. Well-dressed and without music, many young men, surprisingly came to love pharmacy by my dad’s example and his requirement of a strong work ethic.
As I grew into the pre-teen years, my favorite part of the store became the jewelry section. Necklaces, earrings and rings were displayed in glass cases with shelves that rotated as you pushed a small, black button. Row after row of beautiful jewelry caught my eye. Once I tried on a ring and quickly discovered that I couldn’t get it off. It was too small. I panicked. Not wanting to get in trouble, I desperately tried to remove the ring. The harder I pulled, the more swollen my finger became. Finally, I showed my dad. His response frightened me, but taught me a lesson. He said with a smile on his face, “I guess we’ll have to call the Fire Department and have them cut off your finger!” I was horrified, but fortunately, with soapy water, the ring lost its grip. I never tried on a ring that wasn’t mine again!
Family vacations were always close to home, since we could not afford a pharmacist to work for my dad. Whenever the family ventured out-of-state he usually stayed home taking care of the needs of our neighbors. I missed him, but I came to realize that his example would mean more to me through the years.
We lived a simple life, yet the lessons taught me are constant reminders of what is truly important. I often wonder if the medicine my dad prescribed was the real remedy for his sick customers or if his kindness and friendliness was the key to their well-being. The store motto should have been, “Pals are your pills!” My dad loved life and loved others. He was a true pal.
He passed away on January 3, 2004, and this will be my first Father’s Day without him. His funeral was a time for the hundreds of people he faithfully served to come and share their story. It was a moment that cemented in my heart how wonderful my dad was. Often the truly great among us are those who do what they do faithfully, unselfishly and without complaint. My dad was a skilled pharmacist, a faithful friend, a devoted husband and a great Father. I miss him, but I’m grateful for the path he marked out for me. Knowing that I can walk this road following his lead makes life worthwhile – in good times and in bad.
I offer this familiar quote to my Dad, “Thanks for the memories!” I am your devoted daughter and biggest fan!
How has your upbringing influenced who you are today? It could be for good or for ill, but know that God can take our background, our story and redeem it for His glory.