Smile. It is the key that fits the lock of everybody’s heart. (A. D’Angelo)
I had a teacher in grade school that used to tell us, “Smile while you still have teeth.” I choose to believe it wasn’t a threat? I mean she was a Franciscan sister so I don’t think we were in jeopardy of being on the receiving end of a knuckle sandwich? I was little though, so I am not going to lie. The idea did pass through my mind every time she said it. I think she meant it in a “life is short, smile often” kind of way, ha? Anyway, I might be slightly scarred from my Catholic school experiences, but I’ve never forgotten the comment.
Last night, Tom and I took our son, Zach, and his friend, Ty to the Guerin Catholic vs. Brebeuf football game. It’s a rivalry game, and there were quite a few kids from both schools there to cheer on their Braves and Golden Eagles. It was a perfect night for Friday night football! We took along my parents, Jim and Kathy Dykhuizen. Mom and Dad usually wear purple to these events, but last night was an exception to the rule. They were sure to let their grandson know that they weren’t rooting against GC, they were just rooting FOR Joe Strickland. Joe is a sophomore at Brebeuf and he’s the son of my cousin, Amy, and her husband, Vern Strickland. Vern is pictured above left with his son, Joe. Mom and Dad took their seats under the Brebeuf press box and watched #54 unleash a significant amount of chaos upon our GC team with my Dad’s brother, Don, and my Aunt Carolyn, who are Joe’s grandparents.
It was wonderful to see and talk to Amy as it has been too long. She’s a beautiful woman with a gorgeous smile who is married to a thoughtful man I have always found to be incredibly likeable…and I don’t think even once I have ever told him that. Literally EVERY TIME his name comes up at our house, one of us in the conversation says something like, “Oh my gosh, Vern is just the best! He’s the nicest guy!” Now, that’s a terrific sentiment to have spoken about you behind your back, but I’m a firm believer in speaking the love aloud. Life’s just too short to leave it unsaid. In Vern’s case, I’m woefully overdue. He’s the kind of guy who lights up a room with his smile. His smiles are the kind that make his eyes sparkle and he’s generous in sharing them with others. His big hug last night was welcoming and genuine, and he almost always has a thoughtful observation or comment to share when I have had the chance to chat with him over the years.
Vern is an Auburn guy and the dad to three handsome young men, Julian, Joe and Jake. The world needs more strong, hard-working, caring men to show us all the way, and this guy is certainly all of those things! Those three sons of his are incredibly blessed to have such a supportive dad! We know this through a few of our own observations but also from the frequent updates we get through family.
Today I just wanted to say, THANKS VERN! Every time I have ever interacted with you, I am left with the feeling that a simple smile is truly where it’s at. It opens hearts and minds, and it spreads happiness. Your big authentic grin always leaves me with a warm, welcoming feeling. Seeing you reminded me that I should SMILE WHILE I STILL HAVE TEETH, HA?!! Enjoy every minute with those handsome, talented guys of yours and congrats the Braves on the nice win last night!
Thanks Shelly for the wonderful tribute to Vern, you describe his qualities so well and inadvertently include the family.
Your a talented writer and gifted with a unique ability.
I enjoy reading all the “He Never Misses”.
Blessings and love to you and your family.