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Amy George Rush

PUBLISHED + SYNDICATED AUTHOR  |  INDEPENDENT COMMUNICATIONS EXPERT  |  COMMUNITY VOLUNTEER

B.A. Communications (Journalism) + M.A. Communications

walk tall

Walk tall.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Do you want to know where my dad was today?

 

Please, let me tell you. 

 

Because he was not at the Cathedral Basilica. Not at 9 a.m., 10, or 11. Not then, not there, nowhere close. 

On my way to meet my cousin Liz for coffee at Kaldi’s in Demun, I exited Highway 40 east at Skinker — known as McCausland where it meets 40. But really, it’s Skinker. The big wide famous boulevard central to my dad’s youth and his favorite stories from that time. This divine placement didn’t occur to me until later — until now, as I sit here in the retelling, in awe of how the universe works.

 

I exited 40 at Skinker and hit the stoplight at the end of the exit ramp. In my left peripheral vision, I noticed a man with a carboard sign, begging for help. It’s literally 100 degrees in St. Louis today, with approximately 120% humidity. He was in jeans, a tee, a baseball cap, beat up tennis shoes — just like how my dad always dressed every day, no matter what the weather. 

 

Luckily I had time at the light to dig for change. I found four single dollar bills in my console. I rolled down my window and said, “I am sorry, but this is all I have in my car right now. But please take it. And know that I will leave here and pray for you.” 

 

“Oh ma’am, thank you so much, I was a bricklayer for 33 years until I broke my back. That put me in a wheelchair for four years. And here I am now.”

 

“I am so sorry to hear that. That’s terrible.”

 

“It was terrible. But don’t be sorry. I can walk again. Look, I can walk, I can stand here, I can talk to you on my own two feet. I can walk! By the way, I’m Sean. What’s your name?”

 

“I’m Amy, so nice to meet you, Sean. And that is amazing! Yes, you can walk again! I am so happy for you," I said, and I meant it. 

 

I added, "Peace be with you sir, and know that I am praying for you, and that I love you, that people you don’t even know love you and care what happens to you. And that the universe has your back.”

 

“It does? You do? You love me? People love me? That is so great to hear. I needed to hear that. Thank you.”

 

“No, thank you, sir.”

 

The light turned green. 

 

I pulled away and looked at the clock: 9:53 a.m. Seven minutes till my dad’s “funeral,” which I wasn’t attending because, well, it wasn’t for my dad, it wasn’t of my dad, and it wasn’t a funeral. Seven minutes until I had to meet Liz at Kaldi’s, about five minutes away. I had time. 

 

I thought about my dad. I remembered his charity. His hobby of paying for the groceries of “druggies” in Cedar Hill — “That way, Aim, when you do that, you know they are getting food and nutrition, but the money isn’t going to more drugs. See how that works, Aim. That’s how you do it.” 

 

And I remembered his habit of handing out crisp $100 bills to random people who appeared to him to be in need. I remembered how I’d roll my eyes at this habit, criticizing it. “Dad, don’t give away your money! You have to keep it for yourself,” I’d scold him.  

 

“I can do whatever the hell I want with my money. I made it, I get to spend it. And damnit they need it more than I do.” He set me straight. End of story. Can’t argue with that. 

 

I remembered the $100 bills. 

 

I flicked on my right-turn blinker and immediately cut across two lanes before hitting the next traffic light, at Skinker and Clayton. There I took a sharp right into a bank parking lot and withdrew $100. It came out in $20 bills, but it was $100 total. 

 

It all happened so fast. 

 

As the ATM worked its magic, I smiled and knew my dad was smiling too. “So cool, Squirt. So cool," he said to me from wherever he is.

 

I exited the bank parking lot and drove back down Skinker, past the 40 east exit ramp. I pulled off at the first side street I could find, and I parked my car there — right at that tiny fire station.

 

On foot, I crossed the 40/Skinker intersection and walked up the exit ramp, right up to where Sean was standing. He was still begging oncoming traffic for help, his back to me so he didn’t see me coming.  

 

“Sean,” I said. “It’s me, Amy. We just met. I gave you the $4 and the can of sparkling water.” 

 

He turned around and smiled. “Oh yes, I remember, because I have been thinking about you since you pulled away. You were the one that told me about the universe. That it has my back. And I’ve been thinking about that this whole time… and, you know what? You are right. You are right.”

 

“I am so glad you know that! And here’s something else I want to tell you. My dad died on Dec. 5, 2020. Today is his funeral. He was always helping people — especially people who looked like they needed help. He loved to do that. And he had this thing he did, where he’d give them $100 bills. So here is $100. It’s from my dad. He wants to help you.”

 

Speechless for a moment, Sean was, as he looked down at the fan of money. And then he said in a whisper, with his hand trembling at his mouth and tears in his eyes, “You are giving me $100.”

 

“Yes, it’s from my dad. Because he believed in helping people who look like they need it, and I do too. It’s from him.”

 

“Your dad and you are giving me $100? That's $100.” 

 

“Yes. It’s yours.”

 

“Wait. Listen to this," he said, suddenly excited and animated. "Just yesterday my grandson told me that he wants to try out for a hockey team, but he needs a new stick for tryouts,” Sean told me. “But he doesn’t have the money for one. Can I use this $100 to buy him a hockey stick?

 

“Yes! You can!”

 

“Really? You don’t mind? How do you want me to use it?,” Sean asked me. He sincerely wanted to know. 

 

“However you want to use it? However it helps? That’s what I want. And that’s what my dad would want. Use it however you find helpful. Help yourself.”

 

“So I can buy him a stick?,” Sean asked me again, incredulous.

 

“Yes! Please do!”

 

“It’s really hot out here,” he said, glancing around at our surroundings. “Can I use some of it for a cold drink? 

 

“Yes! I hope you do! I hope this is enough money so that you can leave this exit ramp right now and go sit inside somewhere cool and get a cold drink. The place up the road (Hi Pointe) has awesome milkshakes.”

 

“Yes I think I will do that.” Then, a moment of silence. He took a deep breath and looked me straight in the eyes. “I can’t believe you are giving this to me.”

 

“Believe it. It’s yours. It’s from my dad anyways. Not me.”

 

“What was his name?”

 

“Martin. Martin George.”

 

“Martin. Martin George. Thank you, Mr. George. I thank Mr. George so much.”

 

“He knows. He hears you. He says you’re welcome," I told Sean. Because I know it to be true.

 

“I’m going to leave now and go find my grandson and tell him I’m going to buy him that hockey stick and then I’m going to get a cold drink.”

 

“Sounds like a plan. Enjoy every minute.” I turned and walked away. 


To my back, Sean shouted, “Thank you so much, Amy. Thank you, Mr. George! Thank you, Martin George!”

 

*

 

I have no memory of walking back to my car. Angels carried me there. I turned on the engine. This song came on. 

 

Walk tall. 

 

I love you, Dad. 

 

*

 

Walk Tall

by John Mellencamp

 

The simple minded and the uninformed
Can be easily led astray
And those that cannot connect the dots
Hey, look the other way
People believe what they wanna believe
When it makes no sense at all
So be careful of those killing in Jesus's name
He don't believe in killing at all

 

Walk tall (keep on walkin', keep on talkin')
Yeah, walk on (keep on walkin', keep on talkin')
Through this world
Walk tall

 

Somewhere out in the distance
Is the death of you and me
Even though we don't think of it much
It's still out there for us to see
If you treat your life like a bar room fight
You'll die stinking of gin
No drunkards allowed in heaven
No sinners will get in

 

Walk tall (keep on walkin', keep on talkin')
Yeah, walk on (keep on walkin', keep on talkin')
Walk tall (keep on walkin', keep on talkin')
Through this world
Walk tall

 

So be careful in what you believe in
There's plenty to get you confused
And in this land called paradise
You must walk in many men's shoes
Bigotry and hatred are enemies to us all
Grace, mercy, and forgiveness
Will help a man walk tall

 

So walk tall (keep on walkin', keep on walkin')
Yeah, walk on (keep on walkin', keep on walkin')
Walk tall (keep on walkin', keep on walkin')
Through this world
Through this world

 

Yeah, walk tall, yeah (keep on walkin', keep on walkin')
Then walk on, yeah (keep on walkin', keep on walkin')
Walk tall yeah (keep on walkin', keep on walkin')
Then walk on, yeah, yeah, yeah (keep on walkin', keep on walkin')

 

Through this world (keep on walkin')
Through this world (keep on walkin')
Through this world (keep on walkin')
Through this world (keep on walkin')
Walk tall (keep on walkin')
Walk tall (keep on walkin')
Then walk on (keep on walkin')
Walk tall (keep on walkin')

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Father's Day

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Now you know what I did around 9:50 a.m. on Friday, June 18. 

 

But please — let me tell you what happened earlier that morning. 

 

Because since hitting “publish” on the story above, I’ve connected some powerful dots. And if my interaction with Sean resonated with you at all, you’ll appreciate what I have to tell you next.

At 6:30 a.m. on Friday, June 18 (the early morning of the story above), I woke up on a mission — to dig up a never-before-seen pic of me and my dad that spoke to his legacy. An image that would inspire me to power through what I suspected may be a difficult day — the day of his so-called “funeral,” which I wasn’t attending. So instead of immediately gulping coffee and hitting up my journal — my every-morning ritual, I heeded the call to dig. 

 

Within seconds of rifling through unmarked boxes that my sister had dropped off at our house weeks (months?) prior, I uncovered an album that an unknown someone had made for him, titled “Grandpa’s Brag Book.” This was the first photo in it: 

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Perfect. Yes. Dad, me, and his first grandson, our son Steven. On the day my husband Jeff became a father and Dad became a grandfather. 

 

I loved the moment in time it captured, but I got a little mad.

 

You see (everyone saw), Dad loved his grandkids. He has three — all boys. I have two; my sister has one. He would have done anything for them. I remember him telling me — many many times over many many years, even before they were born — that he built everything he did for THEM.

 

Reality robbed him of fulfilling his dreams.

 

If you know me, you probably kinda sorta know some of the backstory — so I’ll just leave that right there. If you don’t know me, suffice it to say that its ugly and disgusting and criminal, what I could tell you. (I could write a book!) Bottom line: the guy got robbed, and at his weakest moments. 

 

So when I sat with that photo and thought about it and prayed over it, yes, I got a tad angry. 

 

“Dad loved these boys so damn much. He would have given them anything they wanted. Anything! But evil got in the way.” Tears everywhere.

 

And then I got pissed at myself. You see, that every-morning ritual I mentioned includes an exercise in gratitude and positivity. I’ve worked HARD to re-wire my brain to focus ONLY on the good. I needed to let that trash talk go! 

 

One last time, I looked at that photo and I said to it, “I know you would have given your grandsons anything, that you wanted to give them everything, and that you didn’t get to. And for that and many other things Dad, I am so very sorry.” 

 

And then along with the anger, I let that photo go, too. I slid it into my journal and closed the book.

 

But the story wasn’t over. 

 

Dad wasn’t done telling it. 

*

 

When you read about Sean, did you note his that his FIRST THOUGHT upon considering Dad’s $100 gift — an idea that came to him as a bolt of lightning that visibly invigorated him — was to buy his grandson a gift? 

 

Think about that. 

 

That man was walking a highway exit ramp in sweltering heat, begging for money, begging for help. And he chooses first to help his grandson.

 

A complete stranger I met on the exit ramp decided to use his gift to buy a gift. 

 

For his grandson.

THAT was my dad in action. That IS my dad. 

My prayer from earlier that morning? Answered. 

Dad gave his grandsons everything after all.

 

He gave them the best gift — the gift of Sean's story. It goes like this:

 

Give. Give of your money but also of your kindness, of your time, of your empathy. Dad gave them the gift of releasing the human pull towards self-absorption, greed, material wealth. He gave them the gift of a ripple effect of goodwill, one that includes you, dear reader. And with Sean's story, he's telling them — he's yelling it at all of us, really, — "Pay attention, damnit." 'Cuz none of this works if you aren't paying attention, right?

 

*

 

Rewind to the early morning of June 18. I shut down my negative thoughts and shut my journal. And then I turned to music. I woke up fueled by the drive to dig, yes, but also running through my brain on repeat was the song 32 Flavors, originally by Ani DiFranco and re-recorded by Alana Davis. Both versions are magic. The song lyrics wouldn’t stop traveling through my thoughts — brainworm-level repetition. It was as if it was determined to be the soundtrack to my morning (and my mourning). 

 

So I googled the full lyrics and read them a few times. Wow. Yes. That would be my anthem for the day, no doubt. I posted a screenshot of the lyrics to my Instagram account. Then I superimposed clips of the lyrics on a few more pics of me and Dad and posted those little multi-media gems to my Insta stories, too. I do that — I post for myself; my social media posts are reminders for me, for my own good.

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On a photo of Dad “giving me away” at my wedding, I superimposed the lyrics, “I did everything that I could do. I’m beyond your peripheral vision, so you might want to turn your head.”  And later that morning, on the way to Kaldi’s I blasted 32 Flavors. Three times in a row. It powered me to that stoplight where Sean stood. It had just stopped playing for the third time when I exited 40 at Skinker. 

 

*

 

You'll remember that Sean appeared in my left peripheral vision — and then I bothered to turn my head — and it was then that the most beautiful story flowed open.

 

I made this connection only later, many hours later. But damn, what a connection. 

I told you this whole thing was my dad in action. My story above doesn't read any other way. It's him.

The messages are very clear: Dad's here. Our loved one's who have passed — all of them are here. They work through us and with us, and sometimes opposite us, in people like Sean and his grandson and that gift of a hockey stick. Pay attention. When we pay attention, and when we give of ourselves, we find each other. 

Dad, you were — you are — correct: we were never meant to hold on to anything. Not money, not property, power, not greed, not anger, not revenge. Not even each other. We're just here to pass along the good stuff and let the rest of the traffic keep zooming down the interstate in the background. All that noise? Tune it out. 

 

The day I was born — June 14, 1974 — was Father's Day that year.

What a connection my dad and I had. What a connection my dad and I have now. 

 

And to all of you out there who have ever dared to be phoenix, dared to rise up from the ash... Do it. Dad did it in his own life, a million times during his almost 80 years on the planet. He did it again on June 18 from wherever he is now. I did it on June 18 at the 40 east/Skinker exit ramp.  

Rise up. Walk tall. 

Thank you, Martin George. 


Thank you, Dad. 

 

Happy Father’s Day.

*

 

32 Flavors

Ani DiFranco

 

Squint your eyes and look closer
I'm not between you and your ambition
I am a poster girl with no poster
I am thirty-two flavors and then some
And I'm beyond your peripheral vision
So you might want to turn your head
'Cause someday you are gonna get hungry
And eat most of the words you just said

 

Both my parents taught me about good will
And I have done well by their names
Just the kindness I've lavished on strangers
Is more than I can explain
Still there's many who've turned out their porch lights
Just so I would think they were not home
And hid in the dark of their windows
Till I'd passed and left them alone

 

God help you if you are an ugly girl
'Cause too pretty is also your doom
'Cause everyone harbors a secret hatred
For the prettiest girl in the room
And god help you if you are a phoenix
And you dare to rise up from the ash
A thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy
While you are just flying past

 

And I've never tried to give my life meaning
By demeaning you
And I would like to state for the record
I did everything that I could do
I'm not saying that I'm a saint
I just don't wanna live that way
No, I will never be a saint
But I will always say

 

Squint your eyes and look closer
I'm not between you and your ambition
I am a poster girl with no poster
I am thirty-two flavors and then some
And I'm beyond your peripheral vision
So you might wanna turn your head
'Cause someday you might find you're starving
And eating all of the words you said

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