October means celebrating Mom and Dad

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By Jackie Torok, Managing Editor

October has always been a month of celebration for me, even before we get to Halloween, my favorite holiday. It kicks off with my mom’s birthday, which will have passed by the time you read this column, then my parents’ anniversary, and then my dad’s birthday.

My parents have supported me in every way from the very beginning. When I started the first grade, right after we moved to North Carolina, there was a kid in my class who picked on me every day. I told my teacher, but since she didn’t see it, she didn’t tell him to stop.

One afternoon I was crying about it when Mom picked me up from school. She gave me no sympathy, telling me to “fight your own battles.”

The next day, when Troy started in on me, I punched him in the face.

He ran to Sister Rita, who saw the bruise and called my mom, telling her she needed to come pick me up.

Mom refused. She told Sister Rita I wouldn’t have had to defend myself like that if she’d stopped the bullying, as she should have. (When she did pick me up that day, however, Mom clarified she didn’t mean for me to hit anyone.)

From then on, it was easier for me to defend myself knowing that, even though Mom wouldn’t do it for me, she always had my back.

The same is true of my dad. Years ago, I was scheduled to cover the induction of Florence, S.C., native Harry Carson into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In the wee hours of the morning before my flight, the air-conditioning unit in my house quit. I had no way to make other arrangements for my cats at that point, and I was in a panic about leaving them there when outside temperatures were going to stay in the triple digits through the weekend.

Don’t miss your assignment and don’t worry, Dad said.

He dropped everything, drove three-and-a-half hours to my house, made arrangements for the repairs, stayed there until they were done and looked after his grandkitties until I got back two days later.

Coincidentally, during Carson’s induction ceremony, his son Donald relayed a similar story about his dad going out of his way to take care of his favorite pet in an emergency, and asked, “How many fathers do you know who would do that?”

“Two now,” I thought to myself.

Because Mom and Dad promised I could have a cat “after Halloween,” they let me bring home my first kitten Nov. 1, 1979. They put me through 12 years of Catholic school, then four years at UNC. They grounded me a lot, too, because I fought with my kid brother, I had a smart mouth and I blew off curfews more than once. They drove us all up to Ohio every year so we could spend Christmas with our grandparents.

Mom went with me to see Duran Duran in concert in Cleveland in 2006 and again in Durham in 2012 because she wouldn’t let me go to their 1984 concert in Greensboro. Three years ago, Dad and I went on vacation to “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” in Orlando, Fla., because we both geek out so hard over the books and movies.

Anytime something makes me happy, Mom and Dad are the first people I want to tell. Anytime I’m sick, even as a grown woman, I still want my mommy and daddy. Anytime my life falls apart, they are the ones who help me hold it together.

I talk to my parents on the phone almost every night. I make no apologies for it; many of my friends wish they could speak with their parents just one more time.

I’m looking forward to my first N.C. Oyster Festival this weekend, but I’m more excited because Mom and Dad are coming with me. We’re going to make it a truly Torok outing (minus our cats) with my brother, sister-in-law, nephew and niece, too. I can’t wait to celebrate with them.

Happy birthday, Mom! Happy 44th anniversary, Mom and Dad! Happy birthday, Dad! I’m so proud, so lucky, so blessed to be your daughter.


Jackie Torok is the managing editor of the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or editor@brunswickbeacon.com.