On the morning of July 5, 1978, I arrived at Dekalb General Hospital in Decatur, Georgia.
We were expecting our first child and this was the day. A neighbor had driven her to the hospital.
I walked into her room and found my wife sitting up in the bed. She was very calm and I was very calm. Sometimes I fool myself by reacting differently than I would expect myself to react. Maybe it’s because it wasn’t going to be much longer. The long awaited day had arrived!
Sitting in the waiting room, waiting for your child to be born, is kind of like being a kid and waiting to open presents. You know you’re going to get something, but you don’t know what it’s going to be.
After answering a few false alarm phone calls to the waiting room, the call that I had waited for came. It was shortly after 5 p.m. On the other end of the phone was a very calm Dr. Martha Dull. She had delivered my Christmas gift in July!
Her words were: “Mr. Simpson, you need to come down to the recovery room. Your wife has some good news for you.”
As long as I live, I will never forget what came next. As I walked into the recovery area, I saw my wife lying on the gurney. On her right side was this tiny little being. At that very moment I felt myself going into a trance. Everything seemed to go into slow motion. My wife said, “Rich, this is Collins.”
My newborn child was handed to me. I kissed her, handed her back to Dr. Dull and cried for 10 minutes while Dr. Martha Dull patted me on the head!
Having our little daughter around the house was wonderful! She was our pride and joy. Everything was right with the world!
Over the years there were a series of goodbyes as she headed off on school and church trips. There was never a time that I watched her ride off that I did not have a lump in my throat.
As she got older, I began thinking ahead to that day when she would walk down the aisle and then ride off with her new husband, which would surely result in my making a trip to “Tissues-R-Us.”
In August of 1996, she had been at Georgia Southern University a few weeks when we received word that she was dating a guy that she had been good friends with in high school. He, too, was at Georgia Southern. His name was Chris Foster. They dated all four years of college.
In May of 2002, Chris called our house and said he wanted to come over and talk to us. We had an idea what the subject matter would be.
We already liked Chris anyway. We had already locked him in as our future son-in-law. There was no sales job needed. Being the class young man that he is, he was covering all the bases. He was paying us a visit to ask permission to marry our daughter.
What he said, during his visit, will stay with me as long as I live. As my wife and I sat there facing Chris, he said: “I’m a better person when I’m with Collins.”
In baseball it’s called a “walk-off home run.” Game over!
On Memorial Day weekend 2002, on the top of a lighthouse at Hilton Head, South Carolina, Chris asked Collins to be his wife. Storybook stuff!
Over the next 10 months I had to deal with the possibility of crying all the way through my speech at the rehearsal dinner. I’m the guy who had a huge lump in his throat at registration for my daughter’s four-year kindergarten!
There was a lot of crying and screaming that day, but as soon as some teachers got me calmed down I was fine. How on this earth was I going to be able to deliver a speech the night before her wedding?!
Somehow I managed to make it through the whole wedding process without shedding a tear! All the mental preparation I did over the 10-month engagement period paid off. People were amazed.
I found out later that one guy was betting “if” or “when” I would cry. I surprised everyone including myself. I had beaten the odds!
There were, however, two things I didn’t know until after the wedding. The first thing was: less than an hour before the wedding ceremony, my wife saw my daughter open a box of my dad’s handkerchiefs that had never been used. They were monogrammed with his initials. He had died on this weekend seven years earlier.
When my wife saw my daughter open the box she started crying. The bridesmaids thought my wife was crying because our daughter was about to get married. She was crying because my dad wasn’t there to see his granddaughter get married.
The second thing I didn’t know, until almost a week after the wedding, may well have brought me to tears had I known!
The sky had been overcast all day, the day of the wedding, and minutes before the wedding, as Collins, her bridesmaids and my wife waited in a large room in the church, the sun came out.
It shined through one of the windows in the room, but only on my daughter! I would like to think that that was a wedding day “Hello, I love you” from my dad to his granddaughter.
Rich Simpson is a former LaGrange resident and a LaGrange High graduate who worked 42 years in radio. He may be reached at [email protected]