Dad First

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Dear Mitch,

I arrived at Barnes and Noble on the Hill (in Dearborn, Michigan), at approximately 9:00 in the morning, on Tuesday December 10th. Excitement coursed through my veins at the prospect of not only attending my first book signing later that evening, but of actually speaking with a native Michigan author! You see, as an aspiring Christian author in the process of having my first book published, I wanted to know, first hand, what it feels like to be on the ‘signing’ side of the table.

“Are you here for the wrist band?” the nice lady at the counter asked. At this early hour, there was already a line formed.

“Yes ma’am. One book, and one wristband please,” I said. Admittedly, I felt out of place, being the only black man standing in line purchasing a Mitch Albom novel and an associated book signing wristband. I peeked out from underneath my low fitted hoodie, and smiled at the little elderly woman immediately behind me. She instinctively clutched her purse against her chest.

“That’ll be $17.95. You should plan on arriving at least 30 minutes before the signing starts. Only those with wristbands will be allowed to line up first, but the signing will be opened to everyone afterwards.”

“So, 6:30 should be good?”

“I’d say so; 6:30…maybe 6:15 to be safe.”

“Thank you ma’am,” I said and stepped away from the counter.

“Sir! Your book!”

I heard chuckles from the line, as I turned back to the counter. An embarrassed smile lit across my face.

“I’m gonna need him to sign that, right?”

“Yes, I believe you’ll want his signature in there,” the nice lady said as she handed over my copy of, “The First Phone Call from Heaven”.

With my bag in hand, I walked out to the parking lot, and jumped back into my work van. I fished my cell phone from a pants pocket and began to scroll through my sent-emails-folder, until I found the one I was looking for. It was an auto reply confirmation email from your blog site.

“‘While You’re Mingling Around the Room, I’m Standing Outside the Door Knocking’. Wow, that’s a pretty ballsy subject line, Smith,” I said out loud. “Don’t be surprised if the guy deletes the email out of sheer annoyance.”

As I stared at the phone, second guessing my decision to send that message last night, it began to vibrate in my hand. My custom ringer sounded off.

Hi. This is your telephone speaking. I don’t mean to bother you, but your wife is calling.  Hi this is your-

I swiped a thumb across the screen, activating the speakerphone.

“What’s up, dearest?”

“Hey. So don’t forget, we need to be there by 6:30 tonight.”

For a split second, my mind drew a complete brain-fart.

“Uh…we…where? I just bought my book and wristband, and was actually about to call you to see if you wanted to go to the book signing with me tonight.”

“Dear, what are you talking about,” she said. I was in trouble.  “Jordynn’s Christmas Concert tonight? You know, its been up on the calendar all month!”

“That’s tonight? Oh man, I just spent 18 dollars on a Mitch Albom book and wristband for his signing tonight!”

“Well, I’m sorry you chose not to read the calendar. You don’t have to go, if you don’t want to. Its fine.”

Of course it wasn’t fine, and the tone of her voice really said, you’d better not even think of skipping her concert.

“Tssk. I’ll call you back later, when I decide something.”

“Fine.”

She hung up on me. I sat there fuming. In my mind, it made perfect sense to attend this book signing. After all, the day would come when I would be signing my own written novels. I might as well get a feel for the atmosphere, right? I am an author! The rest of the world just doesn’t recognize that fact yet.

I pulled out of the parking lot feeling conflicted. I’d never missed a concert for my daughter. One wouldn’t hurt her feelings. Besides, she knew how proud I was of her flute playing skills. She would totally understand Daddy ditching another performance to pursue his own dream of writing. She gets me.

That’s when the truth hit me, Mitch. The devil was at work at that very moment. That snake was convincing me to put aside my duties as Dad first, to cater to my ambitions of author connecting. Unbelievably, when I recognized what was happening, I still chose to rebut the right decision.

“Lord, I’m never gonna get the chance to catch Mitch Albom this close to Lincoln Park, again.”

So go ahead and break your daughter’s heart, for 2 minutes of time spent with someone who will forget your name, 30 seconds after he’s shaken your hand. I guarantee, she’ll always remember the one Christmas Concert you chose to skip.

That was the slap in the face. God was playing hardball.  I tossed the red wristband, and took the book home to my wife. She promptly read and raved about it.

——————————————————————————————————————-

The Lincoln Park Middle School sixth grade Dragon Band put on an absolutely horrible display of music that evening. It was so bad, it was awesome. Those kids put their hearts into playing their instruments. While some of them could not keep time and others could barely stay in key, it was obvious to the crowd of spectators, they were on stage having fun. My daughter, Jordynn, sat first chair; right out front for all to see. She played and she smiled with humble confidence. The Lord was with my baby, that night, Mitch. At the end of their third set, she looked out into the crowd and found her Mother and I. She smiled and waved petite-like. At that moment, I choked back tears of joy. She believed in herself, because we believed in her.

Mitch, I am a writer. My name is Ennis C. Smith. You may never hear of me, because before I tote myself as an author, I am a Dad first. Choosing to skip your book signing helped me to remember that fact. It helped me to remember what’s really important in my life.

Regards,

Ennis

P.S.

The book is amazing! At the time of this writing I’m 207 pages in, and can’t put it down. It’s real attraction is the ability to force the reader to actually consider, “What If?”. Nice work, sir!

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