Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Sincerely

To the Renaissance Nashville Hotel Family,

I was four years old when I walked into your hotel for the first time. The name outside read Stouffer’s and there were ashtrays in the lobby, filled with sand that had been stamped with the fancy “S” logo. My dad had come to help out and I was privileged enough to create a home away from home inside its walls.

Mr. John Fleming was my father. A hotel manager by day and a goofy, grinning daddy by night – that’s how his closet was separated too; beautiful suits on one hand and then hundreds of white tube socks, vacation shirts, and sweatpants that he wore on his morning trip to grab a newspaper and coffee on the weekends.

Nervous and always on my best behavior, I wanted to make him proud every chance I got to visit you all. I didn’t want to embarrass him. He loved the men and women he worked with and I wanted to make sure that I made a good first impression, second impression, a lasting impression still to this day because that’s what he did. But now, mostly, I want to make an impression that says, “She is appreciative.”

Dad gave me so much at home. Together with my mom, they offered a life to me that so many people don’t get the opportunity to have. From the intangibles to a room full of everything I could have dreamt of, my siblings and I had it all. Now after sharing such an emotional experience together, I know how much he gave to all of you too.

At the funeral, everyone kept thanking us for sharing Dad with them. What’s amazing is I never felt like I was “sharing” him. He worked long hours and he would occasionally travel, but he still made everyone in his life feel special. I was never gipped of time with my Dad while he was here. Instead, I gained better insight and advice from him because of the team he had built at the Renaissance – which was all of you. I must confess, though I’m terribly angry that I do feel my time was cut short with him for one reason that keeps swirling around in my head. In fact, it’s how I began the letter I wrote to him – the one I tucked under his sleeve on March 9th, 2018, hoping that he’s able to receive snail mail in heaven. “I wasn’t done learning from you Daddy,” I printed out on paper from an old journal. I bet a lot of you feel the same way.

Dad, Mom, Nick, and Donna had already traveled and lived around the country before I was even a blip on the radar. I didn’t get to experience living in Mobile, hunkered down at the Riverview during the hurricane, or watching Dad make his mark on The Mayflower Hotel in

Washington D.C. Instead, I was given the gift of making Nashville my hometown. I never felt like I missed out on anything that came before 1989 though, no matter how many times Nick or Donna wanted to remind me that I was late to the Fleming party. And that’s because of how Dad’s team made my family feel every time we stepped inside the lobby of the Renaissance, settled on 611 Commerce Street, Nashville, Tennessee.

The chocolate eggs and bunnies showcased near the elevators at Easter, the Kids’ CafĂ© parties that I tried really hard to be excellent at face-painting for (so many children asked me to give them a reindeer and they’d walk away with a very sad cat on their cheek instead), the renovations, the Mother’s Day brunches, there are so many of my childhood and milestone memories locked away in that hotel. I turned 21 there and had my first appletini. And most recently, my high school class and I celebrated our 10-year reunion there – with details so perfect and food so delicious.

As soon as we walked away from Austin and Bell on March 10th, 2018, I felt the need to do what I always do when I’m feeling things that I don’t quite understand. I write. That memory of those ashtrays kept coming to mind and I knew that no matter how this letter or gobbledygook ran out on paper that I needed to get it to all of you. It’s the best way I know how to say, “Thank you.”

Thank you for being a part of my Dad’s life. Thank you for being a part of my family’s life. Thank you for being a part of my own life. But mostly, thank you for loving my father and thank you for providing a home away from home for him for the past 25 years. He wanted to get back to you. He was sad that he felt like the chance had been taken from him with the latest diagnosis but going back to work, in his words, “wasn’t being taken off the table just yet.” I need you all to know that he wanted to get back to it. He wanted to shake your hands and goof around and be your leader – if only for a little bit longer – and finish his career on his own accord.

Again, thank you for loving my father. And thank you for showing it in a way that he deserved, because he deserved it all.

Sincerely and with so much love,

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