You can’t pick your family, but somehow you end up where you belong. I heard that tonight on a tv promo for a movie and it really struck me as truth, especially after the day I had in reflection of what Father’s Day means to me and the men who have had a hand in shaping my life.
Many of you know part of my story… I was adopted as an infant and several years ago I was able to communicate with my birthfather & say thanks for the opportunity to live this crazy life. I hope to meet him someday in person and I always think of him on Father’s Day.
The man who I call my father adopted me when I was a few months old. His name was Richard, but he will always be my Daddy. I am his only child and in his eyes I was his little princess. Well, let’s be honest here… more like a Merida type princess who would be more the type to be out skinning her knee instead of a Cinderella type roaming the castle sewing clothes. OR WAIT! I’ll even take it to the Princess Leia…being a little opinionated, preferred pants over a dress, and was adopted too… it is the end of Star Wars Weekend so why not! (we will take on the Disney Princess or not debate on at another time)… but I digress.
My Daddy served in the Pacific theater in WWII as a Navy recon photographer, returned to take over his father’s insurance business until he retired. I’m still amazed he worked just one business his entire post war life. I think I am now on career number 4.. or so.
I learned many of life’s lessons from him and he is responsible for my entrepreneurial spirit as well as for my love of travel and all things Disney. It first started with frequent drive trips where we would pack into a car and drive around a state each year and explore the history, culture and fun the state had to offer. Take Oregon for example… anyone been to a ghost town, a Shakespearean festival, a vortex with a house of mystery, a beach, a Crater Lake, an amusement park and a zoo all in one trip? That was a typical summer for me.
Then one year I received a gift from him that had 3 record albums (kids – those are what cds/MP3s/.wav files were in the olden days…) that had songs and a picture book of three Disneyland attractions… Haunted Mansion, Country Bears and I think It’s a Small World. I wore the Haunted Mansion one out playing it over and over. A few months later he took me to Disneyland for my 7th birthday. We stayed at one of the hotels across the street space themed I think and I remember the hotel shuttle was decorated with a face on the front of it… I have pics somewhere in boxes & I may have to dig them out someday and detail that trip. (ok.. ok… its on the list for another time…)
I lost my Daddy to Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 1994… 20 years ago this August. He was 70 at the time but he was always an 8 year old in his heart and mind when it came to enjoying life. If he was here today he’d be racing me to whatever attraction we had for the first fastpass of the day. I always want to remember that childlike wonder and spirit and do my best to remember age is in the mind… and yes sometimes in my knees, but we can work around that if needed.
When my husband took me to Walt Disney World for the 1st time in 1996, we discovered they were selling paving bricks that you could commemorate people, special occasions, vacations, etc. in a few words and they would be included in pathways in various spots around the Seven Seas Lagoon. I fell in love with Walt Disney World and decided this would be a perfect way to always remember where it all started and would be reminded of my Daddy on each trip to follow. So I purchased a brick and it was placed on the path between the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian.
Fast forward to Father’s Day 2014…
I decided to go find the brick I purchased 18 years ago. I knew I could get a map of the locations, but when I archived the brick numbers, I did a great job cause I couldn’t find them. I tried looking online to see if there was a lookup of any kind and even went down to the club concierge who said she knew nothing about the bricks except they stopped selling them years ago. Next, I called my husband in Seattle and he lovingly searched archives, old boxes, every place we could possibly think of to help us get the numbers so I could find the brick. Nothing. So…I set off in the heat of the day to see if I could get lucky and find it on my own.
I searched for almost 2 hours in the heat of June reading the stories brick by brick of the hundreds of family memories of weddings, anniversaries and family trips of people I didn’t know, yet felt the joy of each one representing a little piece of magic that makes up the big picture we enjoy today. Anyone who knows me also knows I don’t last long in the heat. Apparently my body functions as a personal space heater at all times, so eventually I had to give up and just spent a few minutes thinking about my Daddy. The man he was, and thanking him for the gifts he gave me. Then I decided I would go to the Magic Kingdom and ride some of the rides we enjoyed together in Disneyland those many years ago.
On my walk to Grand Floridian to catch the monorail, I stopped to make a phone call to dad #3. My stepfather Rodger is my last remaining parent that had a positive influence in my life and makes me smile and laugh every time I get to talk with him. He is retired now but taught me the value of hard work and responsibility from a very early age. We share a love for football and wine and the simple pleasures of the company of great of friends. I treasure our relationship so much yet I don’t see him as much as I would like, so my Father’s day gift is a weekend in Seattle so we can catch up. I was hell on wheels for him thru my teenage years so the least I can do is buy him a beer now and then to try and make up for it all. THere is a story about the first time I took Rodger to Walt Disney World… Ill tell that one next year….
First stop upon arrival at the Magic Kingdom? Haunted Mansion of course! It was fun closing my eyes and catching memories of when my Daddy and I rode the attraction together and I couldn’t help wishing he was here to ask those burning questions… was I scared when I rode with him? If so what scared me most? What did I like about it? Did I fixate on the Ballroom scene then as much as I do now?.. etc.. etc.. etc..
When I exited the ride I saw looming dark clouds starting to head my way, so thought maybe I’d head back to the hotel to get some work done. As I passed the firehouse I thought… maybe it’s worth a stop at City Hall just to see if they have a resource I could call this week for brick numbers.
I walked in and was greeted by Marie from France. I had already had my mind ready for the bad news that my quest was likely futile, so told her right up front it was quite possible was I was looking for likely wasn’t possible, but was worth a try. When I asked about the bricks and the maps, I received the look of “Im sorry but…” and when she finished her sentence, I was about to say thanks and walk away. She could have said… have a magical day, but instead she looked at me and said…” let me see something…” and she disappeared behind the backstage door. A few minutes later she emerged and said… if you can give me a little info I may be able to look them up…”. I think my heart skipped a beat but I still wasn’t going to get excited as the info she needed like the address I lived when I purchased it, was so long ago I wasn’t sure if it was enough to do any good. Marie went to a terminal and went to work. Several minutes later she returned and said “I didn’t find one… I found FIVE”
My eyes welled up in tears. Just as they are again as I write this. Not only did she find the number of the brick for my daddy, but she also went to the additional effort and found the other four my husband and I purchased over the years to commemorate other important moments at Disney World. Our Anniversary, a special trip or two with friends, and another I purchased to always remember my mom when I lost her 5 years after my dad in 1999.
I tried to say thank you… but my voice simply couldn’t make it thru the emotion. I was simply not expecting a miracle after a long day of searching and the additional effort Marie went to made true ‘Walt style Magic’ for a grateful daughter to celebrate Father’s Day in the best possible way given the circumstances. As she wrote down the brick numbers I made use of the tissues she handed me.
A few minutes later… the emotion turned to joy and I asked for a cast card to be sure she was recognized for her efforts.
Merci Beaucoup Marie.
You are a shining example of what I have come to expect from Disney cast. You could have easily let me walk away and moved on with your day when you weren’t sure about the bricks, but you took the extra step and it meant the world to a daughter in search for a lost memory.
If a cast member ever goes the extra step for you that makes a difference in your visit… please stop by Guest Relations and ask for a cast recognition card. That extra effort should always be rewarded and maybe you will bring a tear to the eye of someone else.
And thank you Walt Disney – who I think of as a grandfather – for creating a world where daddy’s and daughters from generations past and generations to come to create and share memories and remember beautiful memories as time passes.
So where is the brick?
Of course as things sometimes go, a huge thunderstorm and downpour began just as I boarded the monorail and has continued until it got dark…. So guess what im doing after my meetings tomorrow…