My Pop-Tart Dad

“The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.”

—John Wooden

Today’s story is from Sharon.

Dad was distant. We never had a close relationship. Did he even like me? Sometimes I wondered.


Sharon’s Dad during a recent family Christmas.

My father was taciturn, reserved, an academic. Neat freak. Perfectionist. Workaholic.

We were like sugar and salt. I was full of words — and problems, too. Dad said little, buried in work and his books. That’s why my sister and I first lived with Mom in Illinois. But as I grew older, it didn’t work out. Mom and I had issues.

I was bipolar, had OCD and an eating disorder. It became too much for her to handle. So at 18, I packed up and headed for Minnesota to live with Dad. At least he would just leave me alone.

He was exactly as I remembered. Introverted. Distant. But he had a razor sharp intellect, and was very observant.

“I think you should eat more than just apples,” he said one day.

Sharon (3rd from right) with an eating disorder.

Borderline anorexic, I was obsessed with becoming a dancer. My sick brain told me apples were the answer. I was surprised by Dad’s words, that he’d noticed, that he cared. He was perched over our small kitchen table, slowly clipping coupons into perfect rectangles.

“That seems like all you eat,” he concluded in a monotone tone. He didn’t look up, eyes intensely focused on his perfect stack of clippings.

Dad was right. It was all I ate. It’s amazing I could walk to and from school in sub-zero temperatures on just a few apples a day.

“Well,” I scoffed, “You don’t even have Pop-Tarts or anything!”

Pop-Tarts — my weakness. I could never resist.


Sharon today, healthy and lovely.

Dad didn’t look up to acknowledge my plea. Whatever. He didn’t care about me.

I came home from class the next day. Time for an apple, I thought. So I opened the pantry. Inside? Pop Tarts. Boxes and boxes, lined up in rows. My eyes filled with tears. Dad cared.

Things improved from there. I started to eat. Pop-Tarts. Then real food. And I started to live. More energy. More alert. I walked everywhere.

But here’s the remarkable thing. I had been wrong all along. I had a dad. Someone who cared.

What did I learn from those Pop-Tarts that day?

People show love in different ways.

Sharon was born in Illinois and spent much of her childhood divided between Illinois and Minnesota. She attended college at St. Catherine’s University, and later in life, Hollins University. Sharon currently lives in Minnesota with her sister and is writing a memoir — while trying not to get over-run by two adorable and rambunctious nieces.

Your Comments

  1. JohnW

    Great story – this one brought me to tears. Thank you for sharing it with the rest of us. Amazing….grace.


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