3: Very Important Papers

3: Very Important Papers

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

Very Important Papers

Education is simply the soul of a society
as it passes from one generation to another.

~G.K. Chesterton

“Impressive résumé,” Mr. Green said, perusing the paper in his hand.

Oh good, I thought. Maybe I’ve cinched the position.

“Just one last thing. We’ll have you take a little aptitude test and then we’ll chat once more,” he said.

“Well, I’m certainly ready,” I replied with more enthusiasm than I felt. Must keep that smile on my face and look calm, I thought. I could hear my dad saying, “Never let them see you sweat.”

I took the test and was pretty sure I’d flubbed it terribly. My nerves were frayed and I was overwhelmed. This interview had started at breakfast and it was now past one o’clock. Mentally drained, I summoned the Human Resources Manager, Cleo, and told her that I was done. Then I waited. Finally, the results were in.

“Well, Ms. Rodman, I see you’re certainly well equipped for this position. I’ll have Cleo take you over to her office and we’ll get the paperwork started. Can you start on Monday?” Mr. Green stated.

“Uh, certainly,” I said rather stunned. Then I asked what I really wanted to know. “Can you tell me how I scored on the tests?”

“I’m not allowed to give out that information, but let’s just say you did very well.”

“Thank you,” I replied meekly.

And with that I had my dream job. I mused about it in the car on the way home and wondered how I had done so well.

My dad’s words rang in my ears, “Education, my dear, education. That’s what it takes to get ahead in this world.”

My dad valued education tremendously. He had been forced to forego college since his father died when he was a senior in high school. As the oldest male, he was expected to go to work and support his mom, two brothers and two sisters. Many years later, he married and supported my sister and mother working as an electrician. When he came to California the year before I was born, the World War II boom was on, and one of the aircraft companies saw promise in him and sent him to USC to get his degree as an engineer.

He made sure I was sent to the best schools his money could buy. I went to a private grammar school, and then a girls’ Catholic high school. I eloped at nineteen and my father was very disappointed that I didn’t attend college. I had been accepted at USC and I think he wanted his offspring to follow in his footsteps.

While my children were in high school I went back to college and finished my degree at age thirty-seven. Dad came to my graduation and there wasn’t a prouder parent in the crowd.

After that all-day interview, I realized I had never thanked my father for the sacrifices that enabled me to obtain a quality education. That night I sat down and wrote him a letter. I wanted to be able to say these things without him becoming emotional. Dad would get misty-eyed when they sang “The Star Spangled Banner” at baseball games. Sometimes I had a hard time handling his emotions. So I chose my best floral stationery and put my pen to work expressing my gratitude. It went something like this:

Dear Dad,

Every time I know the right word to use in a business report or how to calculate the rate of return in a marketing analysis sheet or successfully proof a report for a shareholders’ meeting, I think of you.

Thank you, Dad, for all the times you made me do my homework or quizzed me on my times tables or spelling words. I realize now how much you sacrificed to make sure I got the best education possible.

I love you, Daddy, and am so thankful you are my dad. I hope I always make you proud and just know I will always be your little girl.

Love,

Sallie

I waited with anticipation for him to receive the note I sent. Days, weeks and then a month passed. Nothing. I finally called my mom.

“Mom, has Dad mentioned any mail he got lately?”

“No, Sallie. Is he expecting something?”

“Nothing special, Mom, I was just curious. I mean . . . I mailed him a short note but it wasn’t that important,” I replied. I was too chicken to tip my hand.

And so time passed and nothing was ever said. I didn’t know if he had received it and ignored it, or if he even got it at all. Meanwhile the years flew by and I moved ahead in my career. Dad was always there to call and congratulate me.

After my father died, we were searching his apartment. He had told me that there was money stashed all around the house — in the sofa, ottoman and his recliner. Being a product of the Depression, he didn’t entirely trust banks. I needed to be sure we didn’t miss anything so I searched everywhere.

When we cleaned out the bedroom, there in his dresser drawer we found documents wrapped in a rubber band and marked “Very Important Papers.” Among the title to his car, his life insurance policy and savings account book was a ragged, yellowed piece of floral notepaper. Knowing he had received my note made my heart leap for joy. He had known how grateful I was to him. And even though he had not been able to tell me back then, I knew the extent of his love when I found my letter.

~Sallie A. Rodman

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