Always kiss your children goodnight -- even if they're already asleep.
~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
When I was a little girl, my father had a time-honored tradition of tucking me into bed. Following my bedtime story, he would give me a nose kiss, tickle my stomach and whisper the most wonderful words into my ear.
"Michelle, of all the little girls in the whole wide world... " he would pause.
"How did your mommy and I get so lucky to get the best one?"
Before he had time to finish, I would say, "You got me!"
And then he would continue, "The best little girl in the whole wide world, and we got you."
"You got me!" I would scream and clap.
"Yes, you, Michelle, and we're so lucky." He would end with a bear hug and another kiss to my forehead.
Years passed and my father never missed a night, even when I thought he should have. After my basketball team was defeated, he came into my room.
"Michelle, of all the basketball players in the whole wide world," he paused.
"Yes, Daddy?" I stared at the floor.
"How did your mom and I get so lucky to get the best one?"
"Of course we did, Michelle. We have you."
"But, Dad... "
"Yes, you, Michelle, and we're so lucky," he cheered, as he gave me a high five followed by a bear hug and a kiss to my forehead.
I thought becoming a teenager would end the ritual, but it didn't.
"Michelle, of all the teenagers in the whole wide world..." he would pause.
"Dad, I'm too old for this," I would sigh.
"How did your mother and I get so lucky to get the best one?"
"C'mon, Dad," I grunted.
"We have you, Michelle, and we're so lucky." Then the embarrassing hug and kiss.
Following college, I became engaged. My father never missed a night to call or leave a message reminding me how special I was to him. I even wondered if he would continue calling after I got married, but he didn't.
The daily calls I had taken for granted all my life ended the day he died from cancer, only weeks before my wedding.
I deeply missed sharing the day with my father. Standing behind the white church doors with my arm in my brother's, I waited for the wedding march to begin. Before we began our descent down the aisle, my brother reached inside his pocket and handed me an ivory napkin embroidered with pink ribbon. Inscribed were the words:
Of all the precious wives in the whole wide world, how did Mark get so lucky to marry the best one? He married you, Michelle, and he is so lucky! I am so proud of you, my little girl.
Without a doubt, it was the best wedding gift I received. One I would never forget. My father showered me with his gifts every day of his life. How did I get so lucky?
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This story is from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dads & Daughters: Stories about the Special Relationship between Fathers and Daughters © 2011 Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All rights reserved.