by Patricia E. Talbert Smith
My dad, Major Edward J. Talbert (Res. Ret.), is a man of few words. He leads by example, and what a leader he is. He has taught me how to live a happy life, which I can sum up with a few of his beliefs.
Believe in God. My dad knows that all things come from God, and he knows to count his blessings—even the ones that might not seem like blessings at the time. In a prayer he once wrote:
There have been many obstacles placed in my path as I attempted to reach my life goals. Some of these were the result of my own doings, while others were from various sources…In my early years, I learned that a few words to You asking for help made a difference…After accomplishing my goals, there has always been time aside to thank You for Your blessings.
At age 90, my dad still prays every night before going to bed.
Family comes first. My dad would do anything for his family. I still marvel at how this quiet, strong man was the best babysitter my now 22-year-old daughter ever had. When he found out his first grandchild was on the way, he called me one day on the phone. He said, “You know, this is my first grandbaby. I don’t think just anyone should take care of him or her. I want to be your babysitter.” And he was—for the first 18 months of Courtney’s life! He knew more about her than I did, and they STILL call each other “Best Friend!” His patience, devotion, love, and excellent care have given her such a precious gift.
True love always prevails. My dad truly enjoyed his assignment with the 332nd Fighter Group at Lockbourne AFB in Columbus, OH from 1948 to 1950. He has wonderful stories from this time about Gen. Davis, the work he did as a Supply Officer, and the friends he made. My favorite story is about the last two weeks he spent all alone on that huge base, as the officer in charge of turning the keys over to the National Guard in July 1950 to signal the beginning of the integration of the Air Force. And why was he not being assigned to other bases in other countries with his friends? That was because my mom realized that she didn’t want to leave her teaching career, her family in Anacostia, and her lifelong friends in Washington. My dad decided to leave his military career behind because he loved her so, and he’s never looked back. They will celebrate 64 years of marriage in April!
Always do your best. My dad has never done anything less—ever! Whether it was his trailblazing role as an Area Branch Librarian with the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System, his commitment to the Army Reserves, his faithful attendance and leadership first at Bethlehem Baptist Church and later at Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church, his volunteer service at the Spauldings Branch Library, his care of my grandmother and her home, or his line dancing, swimming, and computer classes over the years, my dad has always given 150%. And this has made me follow suit in my personal and professional life.
Trust in the Lord. When I had complications carrying Courtney, I fretted during my three months of bed rest that I would lose her. I did everything the doctors said and took my worries to the Lord. But somehow, I couldn’t leave them there! My dad said early in the pregnancy, “The baby will be fine.” And she absolutely was!! When I developed a rare and deadly cancer in 2009, he said again simply, “You’ll be fine.” Not wanting to let him or the rest of my family down, I threw myself into my recovery and I AM fine—with probably more energy and joy in my life than ever before. I also have no doubt that his nightly prayers were once again instrumental in blessing me. When you truly put your trust in the Lord, somehow they always do!
Travel often. My mom and dad have always traveled. There were cross-country trips, campsites, flights to Europe, and many cruises. Dad’s favorite spot on earth, however, remains Cape Cod. I, too, adore Cape Cod with my folks, but I think I love France even more, having lived in there for a year and a half over 30 years ago. My daughter is living in Nice, France now as a teaching assistant, and I suspect that we were both inspired by Dad’s black and white shot of the beach at Biarritz, where he studied just after the war.
Invest in your children. My folks have literally given me the world, sacrificing so much for me so I could attend National Cathedral School, Trinity College, and the University of Illinois. They made my education a priority over material things, as they understood that with it, I would be able to do anything. We have tried to “pay it forward” with our daughter, and hope that she will do the same with her children.
Take care of yourself. Dad has always been vigilant about eating right, exercising and taking only the medications you must. He gave up smoking his pipe in the 60s, and while he enjoys an occasional glass of white wine, never overdoes on anything. He is at a healthy weight and looks just great!
Laugh! Laugh at funny jokes, at funny situations, and most importantly, at yourself! And he never lets me forget that a little sarcasm sprinkled in can be funny, too. I learned last year that my cooking is a little different from what Dad is used to eating. One day, I was getting exasperated and finally asked him, “Would it KILL you to eat this egg-white omelet?” His answer? “It might!”
Be humble. Much like David in the Bible, my dad practices humility and believes that you should never, ever “toot your own horn”. Part of that is, perhaps, generational (You just did what you had to do to survive the Depression, WWII, and segregation!), but a big part of that is also my dad. Those who really matter (God and you) know what you’ve done, and that’s enough. It wasn’t until 2006 that I learned that Dad had even been a part of the Tuskegee Experience. He never spoke of what he did as miraculous or groundbreaking. In fact, it took a military parent introducing Dad (“the principal’s father”) at an event at our little parish day school for me to begin to understand the context and the full importance of the roles that all the men and women of Tuskegee played in moving our country forward.
To say that I am proud of my dad would be an understatement. And to say that I am honored to be his daughter and so very proud to carry his legacy forward would just embarrass him. So instead, I will simply say, “Thank you, Dad … for everything!"