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Standing Tall

IPPY awards silver medalWhen we were passing through customs on our way out of Toronto today, the officer at the desk asked whether my mother and I were traveling for business, or pleasure. The answer was both; we said business first. Then I explained that my mother was going to Manhattan, to receive an IPPY silver medal.

It was terribly nice of the customs agent to offer her congratulations –– I always expect border crossings to be taciturn, by necessity, but this officer’s kindness set a tone. By the time we landed at La Guardia, and our limo maneuvered us to midtown’s Hudson Hotel for a quick turnaround before the ceremony, we were in good spirits.

Though the day was hot in New York –– a challenge even for my prized linen summer suits –– it felt as though we were bound for a wonderful evening. And we were.

The reach of the IPPY Awards is massive. Last night’s ceremony had delegations from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, France, Spain… even an author from Oman. With so many people coming together to celebrate, it’s entirely possible to submerge into the crowd –– to get caught up in a conversation with an editor from New Mexico, or a writer and his wife from Rochester. You talk shop, you talk weather, you talk travel… then the time comes for a certain category to be celebrated, and you have to stop, reorient, let those being honored receive their accolades.

Jacqui’s turn before the spotlight seemed to come and go in a flash. I was terribly negligent as a photographer; I’d staked out a spot, but was too distracted clapping (possibly hooting and hollering a little) to do more than snap this grizzly attempt at an image –– which does no justice at all to the venue, or the atmosphere:

IPPY Awards 2013

I was –– am –– immensely proud of my mother. I’ve said for years that her book is our finest, because it is… and now I get to say ‘told you so’ over and over, with hardware to back up my claims. Rarely is ‘told you so’ a good thing, but this is an exception. Because her work is remarkable, and I don’t think she hears that enough.

IPPY Awards 2013Last night, though, there was no shortage of such praise… and indeed, perhaps that was its own sort of challenge, both for her and for me. Positive feedback is always welcome, of course… but that wasn’t why we were there. It’s not at all why we accepted the invitation to come to New York.

No, we came because my grandfather’s story –– crafted into a book so brilliantly by my mother –– had finally received the recognition it was due. Because Dick’s experiences, which have helped so many people coping with loss, can now proudly wear silver. In some way it’s a trivial thing, but it would be false to say it doesn’t matter.

And yet, when we left the gala last night, we weren’t talking about Dick; we were commenting on the venue, the people we’d seen and met, the way the program had been structured… comparing this ceremony to events we’d attended in the past, or run ourselves.

Such talk occupied us right up until the moment we passed by the entrance to a rather impressive condo building on 57th Street –– one with a brightly-lit lobby shining through its glass doors. Inside that lobby, standing alone on a table, was a vase of flowers. Among them: the largest stargazer lilies I’ve seen in a very long time.

If you don’t understand what that means, you must read A Daughter’s Gift –– I can never do justice to the importance of those flowers. When we saw them, I asked the doorman to let us in for a photo beside the vase… and for no good reason, he obliged.

Except, of course, there was a good reason.

Yesterday, we didn’t come to New York alone. As we hurriedly posed a quick iPhone shot of Jacqui, her medal, and those flowers, I realized that all the pageantry was secondary… because I was taking a picture of my mother, with my grandfather, on a night when the power of their relationship was being honored.

I have no doubt that last night, as Jacqui and I were standing at the bannister of the mezzanine overlooking the IPPY gala, my grandfather was standing beside us.

And by God, he was standing tall.

Enjoy the silver, Dick. You and your daughter earned it.

Jacqui Tam… with her father on the night their story was recognized with an IPPY silver.