From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul


What an enormous magnifier is tradition! How a thing grows in the human memory and the human imagination, when love, worship and all that lies in the human heart is there to encourage it.

Thomas Carlyle

My mother passed away when I was six, and my dad became the only parent for my siblings and me.

Every morning before Dad went to work, he frequented his favorite neighborhood donut shop. He always left with a bear claw pastry and a cup of coffee. Occasionally, Dad would take me fishing on weekends or to his work during the summer, and we always stopped at Dad’s morning hangout, where he would share conversation and jokes with the employees and customers alike.

When we left, accompanying the bear claw in a small box was a chocolate-covered donut for me. Dad would help me up and into his truck. My ankles just cleared the seat as my shoes stayed clear of dirtying the upholstery. I sat close to Dad, just under his wing, feeling honored, safe and comfortable. My job during the journey was to hold Dad’s coffee between my knees to keep it from spilling. Even though the cup had a lid, I did my job well; the coffee never did spill.

After catching my first rainbow trout, Dad was so proud, we stopped by the donut shop on our way home to show off the trophy. The applause they gave me felt good, but to see how proud Dad looked was the real gift.

As time passed and I grew older and bigger, the donut shop became a special place for us to celebrate my wins from swimming and downhill skiing competitions. Even if I didn’t win or place, Dad would still take me to that familiar place of sharing. We always left with the little box holding one bear claw and one chocolate-covered donut.

Eventually, I grew up and left Dad’s home. On my wedding day, before he walked me down the aisle, Dad handed me a small gift box. When I opened it, I found a small chocolate-covered donut. My heart melted quicker than the chocolate frosting would have in an oven. We held each other and both cried. He told me how proud he was of me and that I would always be his little girl.

Dad continued going to his favorite donut shop long after I left. I only returned there once, with my first baby daughter. Dad glowed with pride, holding what seemed to be the best trophy yet to share with his friends.

In October 1989, Dad found out he had inoperable cancer. We lived an ocean apart, and our visits were few.

A year later, I was attacked and beaten, landing me in the hospital, undergoing three back surgeries for crushed vertebrae. Dad’s cancer had progressed so much that his body was barely able to hold him up. Against doctor’s orders, he flew to the hospital to comfort me. When he arrived, I was in traction and barely able to move. Dad’s frail body lay over my chest, and with his skeletal arms he hugged me, saying if he could give me any gift in the world, he would trade places with me at that very moment.

As they prepared me for surgery, I watched Dad’s eyes pour tears that would fill a dam. He asked the anesthesiologist to take care of his little girl. They wheeled me out of the room and into surgery. When I woke up, I was back in my room. Nobody was around. As I reached for the telephone to call Dad, I saw a paper plate holding a donut covered with chocolate.

I never saw Dad again. He’d become so weak he had to return home. The cancer took him just days after he left my bedside.

Now when I drive past donut shops, I can’t help but smile, recalling those memories, my greatest trophy.

Gail Eynon

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