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by Susan DeLay

My Dad learned to drink coffee as a child when his mother served it to him and his sister in small cups with way more milk than java. Today, his mother’s actions might have triggered a visit from child protection services, but back then—in the Depression-era days—it was okay for children to drink coffee.

But my Dad didn’t learn to love coffee until he served in Patton’s Army in Nazi-occupied France where he drank it from a tin cup. None of the G.I.s seemed to care if the brew was bitter, had cream, sugar, artificial sweeteners, or even a froth of steamed milk. As long as it was hot and caffeinated, it could taste like mud and the they would drink it. So, my Dad returned from World War II with two things—the satisfaction of defeating Hitler and a love of coffee.

It only makes sense that one of his favorite candies was Werthers original coffee-caramels swirled with rich coffee. He kept the individually wrapped candies in a small container stashed in a cup holder in his Dodge van where his grandchildren were always welcome to help themselves.

It inspired my nephew Josh to write a grade school essay called Papa Tom’s Candy Car. To date, it’s been Josh’s most popular writing—at least in our family. And none of us can see a Werthers coffee candy without thinking of Papa Tom.

A few weeks ago, I’d been missing my Dad like crazy. It might have had something to do with the coming of the annual golf tournament at Muirfield, which he never missed—even if he just watched it on TV. The only thing that usurped his love of coffee was golf.

On this particular day, I had stopped at church to visit friend and had mentioned to her that I’d had my mind on my Dad all day. It happens.

While we were chatting, a woman came into the reception area and asked for directions to the church’s food pantry. She had brought her elderly neighbor to get food and didn’t know the layout, so she was about as far away from the food pantry as she could get and still be in the same zip code. Despite the abundance of clear signage, most people don’t pay attention and prefer to stop at the first entrance and ask. Come to think of it, mostly women do that, which blatantly implies men don’t ask for directions. I’m sure that’s nothing more than an urban legend.

Since I had a little time on my hands, I offered to drive to the food pantry and let her follow me. While I wouldn’t say this to just anyone, I was feeling pretty good about myself for my generous random act of kindness.

We pulled up and parked next to each other in the parking lot and I rolled down my window to see if they needed anything else. I asked the elderly woman if she had any mobility issues because she would still have to go down a flight of stairs and walk the length of a football field to get to the door. The church’s handicapped parking is not for the truly handicapped—just for those who can do stairs and traverse a field into the end zone. Fortunately, no one makes them run.

The woman assured me she could manage and as she thanked me for the escort, she got out of her car and came to my window.

Turns out she was the one who delivered a generous act of random kindness to a grown up little girl who was missing her Dad that day. As she thanked me, she placed two Werthers coffee-flavored candies in my hand.

She had no idea that, along with the candy, she also delivered a wink from Heaven.

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