Cards Recall Long-Ago Memories
BY SARAH BROWN
Charlie Parkhill, of Pinehurst, was -certainly surrounded by good company, both in person and in spirit from thousands of miles away, when he celebrated his 90th birthday in mid-May.
As the date drew near, daughter Laurie Parkhill says she recalled a tradition her dad has continued for more than two decades.
She says he sends his grandchildren a card each year with an amount of money in it corresponding to their age. For example, when they turned 5, they would receive $5. One grandchild received $21 for a 21st birthday earlier this year.
"With his 90th birthday coming up, it got me thinking, what can I do for Dad?" Laurie says. "So I decided to find 90 people to send him a birthday card with a dollar bill in it."
She contacted not only friends, family and neighbors, but also several of her own high school and college acquaintances after remembering how much they, too, had loved her parents during their teenage and young adult years.
Her sister, a schoolteacher in Georgia, had her students make cards by hand and send them in as well.
Laurie says she asked old friends of her dad's to remember him growing up and others to recall their favorite memory of him and write it in the card.
"Everybody really jumped on board," she says.
Patsy Parkhill, Charlie's wife, says the hours spent opening cards were very moving and emotional for both her and her husband.
"The notes were incredibly sweet and sentimental," she says. "There were lots of happy things our friends remembered us for."
But Patsy says she could hardly pick out a specific card or memory that was the most poignant to read.
"I was so busy crying, they were all too wonderful!" she says. "I would cry at one time and laugh the next."
Laurie asked everyone to mail their cards on the same day. Although they were sent from all over the country, the bulk of them arrived on her father's birthday. Charlie, with his walker, stood in awe at the end of the sidewalk as the dozens of envelopes made their appearance.
"The mailman joked, 'I need a wheelbarrow to carry all this!'" Laurie says with a laugh.
Patsy emphasizes how meaningful it was to hear from the "many good dear friends" she and Charlie have collected over the years. As Laurie watched both of her parents visibly light up at the sight of all the cards, she says she was thrilled that her idea yielded such a rewarding result.
"It was a welcome thing for my mom, because she definitely remembers who everyone was," she says. "Even though my dad didn't remember all the people, he was still so happy."
The Parkhill family is cherishing a year filled with festivities. Patsy enjoyed a large party thrown in her honor on her 80th birthday this past February, and the two will have their 60th wedding anniversary in May of next year.
Contact Sarah Brown at email@example.com.
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