A year ago I tried a Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich for the very first time. I had seen the semi-amusing commercials for years. Cows invading everyday urban landscapes urging people to “Eat Mor Chikin” rather than the usual 2 all beef patties, etc. I had even heard testimonials from friends whose opinion I value. “Dude, they’re awesome.” “Great chicken sandwich.”
The restaurant was packed. There was a line out of the door and the drive through was backed up into the road. “Everything I have heard MUST be true!” I thought. I waited about 10 minutes to give my order and received it promptly. Luckily, there was a secluded table for two open and I didn’t have to wait another 10 minutes to sit down to enjoy my potentially tasty meal.
I took a bite, washed it down with some soda, tried some fries, and took another bite. Chew. Swallow. Repeat.
I did not enjoy my Chick-Fil-A experience.
There are no Chick-Fil-A restaurants in Western New York. I happened to be in Joplin, Missouri. The same Joplin that 1 year earlier was devastated by an F5 tornado. This Chick-Fil-A was celebrating their grand re-opening within eyesight of a geological scar that stretched for a mile. In the distance there appeared to be the beginnings of a rebirth: New construction and “Trust us, we’re open!” signage. For the people of Joplin, I am sure that the re-opening of their favorite chicken sandwich serving fast food restaurant was the beginning of a return to normalcy.
I’ll always remember my first Chick-Fil-A experience. I was in Joplin because my father had passed away a day earlier.
As a kid, he was my hero. I had a “cool” dad. He worked at the radio station, he was funny around my friends, he let me be me.
My mother got sick when I became a teenager and the strain that it put on my relationship with my dad was immeasurable. I felt neglected and lost. 14 years old. I had so many questions and interests, but all he wanted to do is take care of mom. I was such a selfish punk. How dare he spend so much time at her bedside! As if he had the power to heal her!?
My mother went from having a 5% chance of survival to living another 14 years hand in hand with my father.
He made a phone call to a friend of his who managed the local radio station asking if they needed any part time help on the weekends because his son was really interested in working there.
He made me what I am today.
The older you get, the more wisdom you acquire. It didn’t take me long to realize that my dad, the hero, was broken in many ways. He had made many mistakes early in his adult life that I know he would do over if he could. He didn’t take very good care of himself. He smoked for too many years and exercise was a pretty foreign term to him.
He re-married 6 months after my mother passed. I was so pissed. That selfish 14 year old revealed himself in adult form. I boycotted the wedding and despised the idea of visiting he and his bride’s new residence in Baxter Springs, Kansas. (Kansas? Gross.) I couldn’t figure out why he would get married again until he was gone. He knew his time was coming and he needed someone to depend on for the final years of his life. Everyone who loved him was too far out of reach and she would be there with him until the end to tell him everything was going to be alright. I wish I could have done the same.
I turn 38 tomorrow. For as long as I’m alive, I’ll always remember my father and what he meant to me on the day time kicks me in the groin. As I reflect, I can only hope I turn out to be half the man he was. He had some life altering lapses in judgement, but none with ill intention. He was loyal and trustworthy. He loved his children. He knew how to light up a room with his charm. He loved life.
I consider myself to be extremely fortunate. I have a beautiful family. We have a roof over our heads and jobs that pay the bills. So much of what has brought me to where I am today I owe to my dad. His legacy lives on through me.
I miss you dad. You’ll always be my hero. I love you.
I’ll never eat at Chick-Fil-A again. Their sandwiches taste like sadness.