Father’s Day is this coming Sunday, so I intentionally waited for this date, between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, for this post, to thank my parents and grandparents for the many ways they’ve molded my life to create the person I am today.
If I’m ever asked, during an interview or otherwise, to name the most challenging assignment I’ve ever had, it’s a no-brainer: being a parent. I’m not sure there’s a harder role out there, nor is there one more rewarding. And, having been a parent for eight years now myself, you eventually come to realize all the hell you put your own parents through when you were a child.
Until you’re out on your own, you may not give much thought to how you became the person you are but, once responsibility sets in, you come to find yourself acting in ways that were molded by values instilled in you as a child. The love and discipline provided by parents and grandparents helps steel you for the fires you’ll face as an adult.
Each person below added their own ingredients to the recipe that is Michael Hambrick. Only three of them are still alive to read this (or have it read to them), but I know the other four will still hear it from above.
To my grandparents
Lucile – I never knew you in person, because cancer took you entirely too soon, but I know you through pictures, stories, and the way mom resembles you in those photos. Growing up, I remember mom talking about your compassion and your work ethic. I haven’t met many people that were willing to clean bathrooms to get through college, but you weren’t above it. You did what you had to do. And that work ethic carried you all the way to help create a successful family business that laid the foundation for the life your children and grandchildren live today.
Ellis (Gramps) – the picture above is of the creek that ran next to the log cabin where you grew up. Perhaps because of this humble beginning, you taught me the importance of financial literacy, and you did so by setting examples of frugality, fiscal responsibility, and giving back. I learned the vocabulary of finance from you, and the passion to share that knowledge with others is what drives me today. I can still see your hand-written signs, with some funny saying on them, hanging from the ceiling in the store. I like to think I have your sense of humor (you were always so quick-witted), but I have a long way to go to equal your level of respect in the community. If you ever had a bad day, I never knew it.
Elaine (E) – you had the tough job of filling the shoes of my grandmother, but you were there for me from day one. My first word was bird, and I’m pretty sure it’s because of your fondness of them. There was always a feeder to watch, and I’m reminded of your love for nature each time I look out at the birds swarming one of the three feeders we have in front of our house now. My own son is becoming quite a bird-watcher himself, and he enjoys helping me refill the feeders.
Jimmie Dean (Memaw) – as you approach your 97th birthday, you give me hope that good genes will give me many more decades to come. Never a finer host, even today when people come to visit you, you’re always thinking first about their comfort and want to ensure they feel at home. And not many women would have had the confidence that you showed, all those years ago, when you asked President Harry Truman to pause from his morning walk in DC for a picture.
Jimmy (Papa) – two quadruple bypass open-heart surgeries would be enough to do most people in, but not you – at least not right away. The residual effects caught up to you eventually, but not before you showed me how to grill like a pro and maintain a yard that the greenest thumb would envy. More importantly, though, even as you fought through the pain and discomfort of failing health, you got up and went to work each day until the bitter end to pay the bills and put food on the table. You didn’t put up with any BS, and there was no place for excuses. And, I have a feeling that the people living in the home on 13th Street are still finding the cigar butts that seemed to always show up in the most random places outside.
To my parents
Mom – you never missed a game, even the ones out of town. You and dad, still working to this day, taught me the importance of commitment, follow-through, and showing up on time. Even when I had what turned out to be the worst sunburn the dermatologist had ever seen (a consequence of my own decision to not wear sunscreen), it was you that reminded me of the commitment I’d made to the bank that summer in college – and I didn’t miss a single day. And, way before then, I learned so much during those summers working in the warehouse of the family business as a youngster; values such as hard work, going above and beyond to get done what needed to get done, holding yourself to a high standard, and the importance of customer service. Making me clean windows, sweep floors, empty trash, and haul fabric helped develop character and an appreciation for doing the job right, without cutting corners. We never wanted for anything, even though the sacrifice may have played a part in you still logging the long days now.
Dad – I couldn’t have been more than four or five years old, but I still remember the blue jacket I was wearing when you drove me back to the farmer’s co-op to return the bolt I’d taken without paying for, and the tears in my eyes when I handed it over to the cashier. Never mind the fact that it probably cost a nickel; it was the lesson that stealing is stealing, and you don’t do it. Giving back was always important, and my favorite was bagging groceries with the Lions Club during the holidays. I’m glad you listened to the voice in your head that told you to come home early on November 15, 1989. The next day, national news caught you standing in front of a pile of rubble that had been our store after the deadliest tornado Huntsville had seen in a century. Just a few years later, you had the courage to leave the only thing you’d known during your adult working life to start your own business, and you haven’t looked back since.
From both of you, even with my fair share of mistakes and lack of appreciation when there should have been gratitude, you showed unconditional love. And now I’m a parent, and y’all have grandparent nicknames of your own. I can already see wonderful bonds being formed with our son, much like I had with my grandparents. I can tell you from experience that it’s the time spent together with the two of you that he’s going to remember more than any toy or candy you’ve ever bought him.
To Lucile, Gramps, E, Memaw, Papa, Mom, and Dad, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Y’all done good.