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My dreams fulfilled

Laura Beall Faulk. A beautiful name that’s fitting for my beautiful new granddaughter. Six pounds, 9 ounces, and 20.5 inches. Who would have known that is the perfect size to fit into the crook of a grandfather’s arm?

The delivery was a long time coming; starting during a Hardee’s marketing conference call. Elizabeth, who has headed our company’s marketing since her return from college, calmly continued the call until the contractions were five minutes apart. She said it helped pass the time.

She called me as they left for the hospital. I asked her how her husband, Grant, was doing. She put him in the category his father and father-in-law once were in when she replied, “He’s not doing as well as I am.”

The entourage arrived at Flowers Hospital, shortly after the parents to be did; two sets of grandparents, a sister, a brother and numerous friends. Together we began the vigil leading to Laura’s birth.

The waiting room now comes equipped with cable and a flat-screen TV. We managed to watch the Braves lose miserably before figuring how to change the channel to the Food Network. There, over the next few hours, I learned how Cheese straws, Cheezits and Pork Rinds were made. I learned about the harvesting of cherries, and watched two episodes of Dinner Impossible.

We had computers and cell phones pouring out e-mails and text messages giving updates around the country. Our apologies go out to George and Deborah Whittaker, who somehow got a phone call at 3 a.m. instead of a text; with the only the cryptic message that “Laura is here.”

Along the way, my sister-in-law, Karen, showed up with a dozen Krispy Kreme donut holes. The box was shamelessly passed around with the excuse that a little sugar would help keep us awake.

Finally, Laura’s other grandfather, Roger, convinced us that a cappuccino would help keep us awake. It was about 15 minutes later that Grant came in and said the delivery would be at least four hours later. We made our way to the hotel only to watch the ceiling with our caffeine charged eyes wide open. Roger was right.

The call from the hospital came just as we drifted off to sleep to tell us that things were moving faster than anticipated. Feeling a bit like an old ballplayer in an extra inning game, we made our way back to the hospital.

Along the way, I got to witness a special, precious gift. At some point, Elizabeth asked for everyone to come into her room. It was crowded with friends and family sharing that special moment just before Laura’s arrival. One of her friends asked if they could pray for her.

I would not share such a private moment if it wasn’t so powerful. Each of the people in the room gathered around Elizabeth, put their hands on her, and then offered prayers for her and Laura. I opened my eyes during the prayers and looked at my youngest daughter, who was about to give birth.

She had such calmness and a peace about her. She was holding her husband’s hand. There was no fear of the future, only a complete acceptance of God’s control of that moment in their lives.

I could not speak or offer my own prayer, because I knew my voice would betray my emotions. What more can a father wish than to see his two daughters marry men who love them and for each to begin a family? Time stood still for me at that moment, knowing that even though prayers were being offered for Elizabeth, it was my own prayers that had been answered.

Laura arrived and within an hour was being passed around like a hot potato. I have yet to hear her cry, at least in my arms, which reaffirms how perfect she is. I held her in my arms for the first time, and felt my heart expand so there was enough room for Laura and for Henry.

My heart can expand a lot more if it needs to. However, at this moment, I have two wonderful daughters, two great sons-in-law, a grandson, a granddaughter and a wonderful wife. My dreams are fulfilled and my prayers are answered.

Goodbye to Kennedy

At the same time I celebrate the birth of my granddaughter, I mourn the death of a friend. Sen. Ted Kennedy was not someone who I shared much in common politically. However, he taught me one lesson that I will always remember.

I first met Sen. Kennedy when I was in Boston to receive the Profiles in Courage Award. I was struck by his sense of family, his courtesy to my own and his extraordinary efforts to make all of us feel comfortable.

He showed me pictures of his family, talking about the things they shared over time. His laugh filled the room. He asked me why I left politics and then encouraged me to return, well aware that I was a Republican.

I returned to Boston twice more, each time to find Teddy and his wife, Victoria, to be as gracious and as friendly any southerner I have ever met.

My friend, J.B. Clarke, is fond of saying that we can “agree to disagree agreeably.” He is right.

Ted Kennedy showed me that in a time of extreme partisan disagreement, that you can respect each other as a person and a human being.