Gone almost 30 years… always in my thoughts

Written by yvonnethornton on December 5th, 2011

Maybe it’s the holiday season that just naturally brings back memories of those we love. Or maybe it’s because my father, Donald Thornton, is never far from my mind. But even something as seemingly innocuous as doing some upgrades in our home stirred vivid memories of Daddy, who readers will remember from my memoirs, The Ditchdigger’s Daughters, and Something to Prove.

My husband Shearwood and I were talking to our security firm about improving our home security system. And it brought me back to the day that my father and mother accompanied me to Bard Hall, where I was to room, when I first entered Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.

I would be living away from home for the first time, and in big, bad New York City, no less. My parents had already helped me settle in and, reluctantly left me in my new room. I assumed they were on their way home. Then Daddy came back to the room, carrying a heavy glass ashtray. After giving me yet another talk about how important it was for a young woman to be careful and vigilant, he handed me the ashtray, which was odd, because I didn’t smoke.

The ashtray was for security purposes, he said. He instructed me to place it above my door, so if any one tried to come in, it would fall and alert me and I could defend myself—or just run.

I thanked him, and promised I’d be careful, but I never did use his makeshift security system. I knew perfectly well that the first time I rushed out the door, I’d be the one to get bonked on the head.

But, just knowing that my Daddy would always look out for me (and yes, I believe he still does, though he’s been gone since 1983), made me feel safer.

And I still have that ashtray.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH


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