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A Tribute to my Dad

August 12, 2021

by Leah Spina
I would like to give honor to my 75-year-old amazing dad Richard Driggers! He was and is an incredible source of support, encouragement and inspiration in my life. He has taught me many things:

Work Ethic - I remember when I was 13-years-old, I apprenticed at a local veterinarian’s office (because doesn’t everyone want to be a vet at age 13 - ha!) I clearly remember him sitting me down at our round wood kitchen table before I went the first time. He was dressed in his starched dress shirt and silk tie for work. “Leah”, he said. “There are three types of workers. Those that go in and do the least amount of work possible. Those that do what they are told, but nothing more. But the type I want you to be is the kind that doesn’t even need to be told what to do - you see it and do it before you are asked. Use self-initiative. Examine the lobby when you arrive. Does it need to be swept? You sweep it. In surgery, get his tools ready so he doesn’t even need to ask - you just anticipate what he needs. This will really set you apart.”

Self Confidence - I remember sometimes I would walk in the kitchen after getting dressed as a teenager, and Dad would say, “Leah! You look so beautiful! If I was a young man and I saw you across the room I would think, ‘Wow! Who is she?!?!?’” I would roll my eyes and groan, “Oh dad!” But it really made me feel loved and strong. He also bought me flowers and took me out every Valentine’s Day along with a gift of a box smartee hearts with the inscription, “To: Princess From: Dad”. (I still buy him a box every Valentine’s Day to this day with the reverse inscription “To: Dad From: Princess”.)

Facing Failure - When I was in high school, I played a tennis match against the top-rated girl in the state. It was sweltering hot and she smoked me 6-0, 6-0. I was humiliated, getting aced and smeared point after point while the umpire and spectators observed silently. When the match ended, I shook her hand, shoved my racquets in my red Wilson tennis bag and exited the court with bright red cheeks. As soon as I emerged from the fence door, I saw my dad walking toward me fast, ripping off his sunglasses. He grabbed my scrawny shoulders with his hands and looked me straight in the eyes, “LEAH. The only difference between you and that girl is a couple of thousand tennis balls. That’s it. She’s just played a lot more than you. Shake it off.”

Taking Risks - I went to a journalism school in North Carolina when I was 20-years-old. A few weeks into classes, they announced they would allow any interested students to compete for a six-month paid internship at a local daily of their choice. I called my dad that night from my hotel room, “Dad, I don’t think I can do it - I’m competing against journalism majors with a ton of experience. They also require you have a laptop and I don’t even have one.” Dad immediately, “Leah, don’t you worry about that. They put their pants on the same way you do each day - one leg at a time. I say you should GO FOR IT.” The next day I received a used laptop Dad had overnighted to me and I won the internship.

Parenthood - I learn so much about enjoying my children by watching the way dad interacts and enjoys them. For example, I was stressed out with little sleep from a long night with a toddler. One of my little ones was proudly showing dad, who was seated on a stump, a dead bug. Dad looked up at me smiling as big as Texas, “Teeth. Look at his tiny teeth.” I love that he slows me down to revel in wonder at childhood beauty.

Adult Hood - My dad is still the first person I call at life’s triumphs or struggles. He always calls me (not a text, an actual personal call) after any important event. He is a great listener and hears my stories as if I’m the only person in the world. He is sincerely interested in others and has a heart for all people - especially those that are hard to love. I want to be more like that.
I’m so grateful God gave me to such a wonderful daddy!

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