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When we first married, Melissa was the photo editor at the Daily News and living in Winona, Minnesota. I was still managing my radio stations in Iowa. I would leave our house in Winona around 2:00 a.m. on Monday morning, to drive to work for the week, in Ottumwa.
Our two oldest daughters, Sydney and Delaney, were attending the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. They shared a house in Waterloo, Iowa, which was right on my way from Winona to Ottumwa. During my Monday drive, I would stop by the convenience store to get a half dozen donuts and a gallon of milk and leave them on their front porch on my way through. I never bothered to wake them because I went through town around four in the morning. It was a special time in life. I hold fond memories of those stops and the “I love you, Dad” texts that would follow.
Last Friday, on my way home from Florida, I needed to stop in Rochester, Minnesota, to take care of some business that would take several hours. Then I needed to get to Duluth before 8:00 p.m. to return a rental trailer. My route would have me driving within a few miles of our daughter Sydney’s house. I was on a really tight schedule and contemplating whether to stop or keep going. It was around 8:00 a.m., Sydney had the day off work for Sister’s Week. I figured they would still be in bed, so I decided to keep driving.
Our three daughters get together once a year for “Sister’s Week,” and Delaney was back from Pennsylvania. Annie, our youngest, was gone that morning doing things to prepare her classroom for the coming school year. It would be Sydney and Delaney together again in Waterloo. I decided I would go get donuts and stop by their house, just like when they were in college.
I rang the doorbell, but nobody answered, so I rang it again and then knocked. Delaney came to the door and let me in. “Stop ringing the doorbell, you’re going to wake the girls.” She whispered with concern. I could see into the bedroom where there were two lumps under the covers. With a milk jug in my left hand and a box of goodies in my right, I gave Delaney a hug and told her good morning!
As soon as I spoke, Addison, our oldest granddaughter, heard my voice and sprung up from under the covers. “Papa!” She said in a sleepy, but excited voice. Shaking the other lump under the covers, “Evelyn. It’s Papa. He’s here!” Addison jumped from the bed and came running to the living room, with Evelyn right on her heels. I handed Delaney the milk and knelt down on one knee to embrace the sleepy child in my left arm. Addison threw her arms around my neck and squeezed me tightly. I returned the hug. Evelyn came running along behind with her arms wide open to join in the group hug. “Papa!” she said.
When it occurred to Ev, she was hugging Addison and not me, she scooted around to my right. I gave her a big hug, pulling her in close as well, the box of donuts was still in my hand. With four little arms wrapped around my neck like an octopus, it was a very heartwarming greeting. Lots of hugs and kisses were shared and I got a little misty-eyed, feeling such pure love from these two.
We went to the kitchen, poured a few glasses of milk, then opened the donuts. Evelyn was all over the cake donut with babos (blueberries) while Addison went right for the long john with chocolate frosting and colorful sprinkles. We shared some wonderful conversation.
Evelyn had finally learned to say Aunt Delaney’s name, but was a little too bashful to say it for me. I pointed to Sydney and asked, “Who is that?”
“Mommy.” Evelyn replied. Then I pointed at her sister, asking the same question. “Addison.” I pointed to myself, “Papa.”
I pointed to Delaney asking, “Who is that?”
“Denaney.” She answered, then raised her shoulders, bashfully putting her finger inside her bottom lip. I gave her kudos and another hug.
I asked Addison what she was going to do today, “I’m going to get a pony.” She stated with authority.
“A real one?” I queried,
“Yep. A real pony. I’m going to get one today.” She confirmed.
“Do your mom and dad know about this?”
Addison smiled. “Not yet, but they will.” We shared a good laugh about that, as I wondered where they were going to keep the new pony – Addison was very determined.
We went outside to throw a few balls for June. I was on a tight schedule and needed to get going. We said our farewells, then June and I got in the car and started down the street. I gave two toots on the horn and waved my arm out the window. As we drove away, I could see them in my rearview mirror, standing in the front yard, waving back.
Annie would join them again in a few hours, but for now it was Sydney and her little sister, Delaney; Addison and her little sister, Evelyn – together for Sister’s Week.
As I turned onto Highway 63, heading north to Rochester, I thought how glad I was to have taken time to stop by.
My business in Rochester took longer than expected, so June and I hustled along and cut our breaks short. As it turned out, we made it back to Duluth, arriving at the trailer rental store at 7:50 pm. Everything was going my way.
Even if it would’ve meant making another trip back to Duluth and another day’s rental on the trailer, it would have been well worth it. I wouldn’t want to have missed out on that morning and the special greeting - one I’ll remember for the rest of my life, that came unexpectedly during Sister’s Week.