A BitterSWEET Experience in Nashville

Please take note that the first word in the title of this blog is written as “BitterSWEET” as opposed to “Bittersweet.” This is by design. You see, the past 48 hours did hold a small dose of disappointment but it was far outweighed by a certain major surprise.

But first, let’s start with the bitter. I went to Nashville primarily to attend the CASE District III Awards Banquet, as our #CCU Keys to Success social media campaign was a finalist in the Social Media Strategy and Execution category. I obviously wanted to take first place. It was not meant to be. Among the finalists there is a grand prize winner, an award of excellence winner, and several special merit honorees. Our campaign earned the award of excellence, the silver medal in the category. No doubt it was great to be a finalist and to place ahead of three other finalists but I would be lying if I said I didn’t want the grand prize.

Coastal Carolina University received the Award of Excellence in the Social Media Strategy and Execution category at the 2017 District III CASE Awards.

You can’t always get what you want in life and I understand that. However, despite missing out on the gold when it came to the award, I hit something much more valuable about six hours before the banquet started. It came in the form of a surprise I never saw coming.

In the early morning of Tuesday, I texted my dad before going into one of the sessions of the CASE Conference just to tell him to have a good day. He responded by asking me to call him after I was through with that session.

After listening to a couple of great speakers from Troy University detail their Instagram strategy (the entire conference itself was AWESOME), I started walking quickly from the conference room I was in to the ballroom for the day’s keynote address. In full conference mode, I almost forgot to call my dad. However, as I approached the doors of the ballroom I remembered to give him a ring.

What happened from there was almost surreal. My dad immediately picked up and started asking about my whereabouts, which I found odd. I told him where I was and he told me a very important person was there to see me. Now I was even more confused. At first I thought he was just using his typical “dad humor” and messing around with me. Mulling it around in my head a bit further I thought perhaps he was talking about Sidney. But then he said that it was an old man waiting for me.

At that point I realized he was under the same roof that I was. In a complete state of shock, bewilderment and confusion, I gave him directions on where to find me. The conference was held at the Gaylord Opry Resort and it is a large place that is built in a complex manner. After a couple minutes of chatoic directions on where I was at in the hotel, my dad and I were face to face.

The first selfie I took with my dad after he surprised me in Nashville.

Knowing that I was up for this award, my dad coordinated with my wife and people at work to come on his own dime to surprise me and support me. He had planned this for a month, taken time off of work, and counted down the days until he would arrive in Nashville. He had planned on arriving at the venue on Monday night, just a couple hours before I arrived, so he could surprise me as I walked in. But like I said above, things don’t always go the way we want them to.

My dad went through hell to get to Nashville. He flew from Spokane to Seattle. From there he was supposed to fly directly to Nashville. But weather and delays got in his way. His flight was canceled and instead of arriving in Nashville at around 4 p.m. CT as his itinerary indicated, he was still in Seattle at 4 p.m. PT. He thought about just going back to Spokane but he said he wanted to tough it out. He finally got on a plane that took him to Atlanta. He spent the night in the Atlanta airport and  got on a flight in the morning that took him to Nashville. By the time he reached the resort at around 8 a.m., he had been traveling for over 24 hours.

But he said the travel debacle didn’t matter. He was now with me and that was all that counted.

My confusion I mentioned above turned to happiness and humility. My parents travel across the country to Myrtle Beach once a year; my dad had just traveled the same distance all the way to Nashville to be with me for just a day. It was such an extrememly nice thing for him to do.

During the day we hung out between sessions. We ate burgers at one of the hotel restuarants, visited the Grand Ol Opry, and chatted it up in the room. Then, we dressed up for the banquet.

Some photos of my dad enjoying his day in Nashville.

It was great to have my dad at my table at the awards banquet. It was an elegant dinner and we sat next to some really nice people. I desperately wanted to get the top award in front of him but I knew he was proud of me anyway.

My dad and I at the awards banquet.

After the banquet, my dad got to visit a couple honky tonk establishments, something he has always wanted to do. We reflected on the complete whirlwind of the past 48 hours and agreed that this entire experience was pretty special.

A photo of my dad and I in the hotel lobby at the end of the night.

This morning we had a nice breakfast. We also got to spend a little extra time with each other because this time around it was my flight that was delayed (my dad’s plane didn’t leave until later in the afternoon). As I departed Nashville, my dad reminded that next time he sees me, he will be able to call me “Dad.”

Some photos from today.

Again, I can’t say enough how humbled I am. I can also say that what occured yesterday was the biggest surprise of my life. Thank you to my wife, my great people at my work, and my mom for making this happen. Most of all, thanks to my dad. It is something that I will never forget. Don’t Blink.