Austin Darisee didn't get the big toy he expected, but the surprise he got was even better.
Austin's father, Albert, popped up from behind a car at their house one morning last week and surprised the son he hasn't seen in 1 1/2 years while stationed overseas.
"He thought we were bringing him a big old toy - one of those nutcrackers you see at the mall," said Austin's mother, Letitia. "He said he would rather have his daddy."
Mr. Darisee, who manages computer networks in the Army, was transferred to Germany in mid-2000. His wife and son moved to his Europe station with him.
But when Mrs. Darisee's father became ill and other family illnesses and injuries arose, she and Austin moved back to Columbia County to help.
The last time Austin saw his father in person was Easter 2002. But they talked on the phone a few times a week.
"Tough is an understatement," Mr. Darisee said about spending the final time of his nearly four-year duty station away from his family halfway across the globe. "I have been looking forward to coming home for a couple of years."
Austin Darisse, 5, hurrys to take his father, Albert Darisse, inside to show him his new puppy. Austin has not seen his father for a year and a half.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The Darisees spent weeks planning to surprise Austin with his father's homecoming. They let him spend the night with his grandmother, Dovie Walker, while Mrs. Darisee traveled to Charleston, S.C. to pick up her husband.
When Mrs. Darisee pulled into Walker's driveway the day before Thanksgiving, Austin ran outside expecting a toy surprise. But Mr. Darisee stood up and grinned at his son, who will turn 6 on Dec. 11.
With his blue eyes round with surprise, Austin simply squealed, "Daddy!" and gave his father a long hug.
"Man, you are tall," Mr. Darisee told his son, patting Austin's head after his son's grip finally loosened.
The reunited family spent the day with each other and visiting family and friends.
"He has shown me his room at least two or three times," Mr. Darisee said Wednesday evening. He said that Austin was so excited, he wore himself out and took two naps during the day.
"He has been waiting a year and a half for this," Mrs. Darisee said. "It was worth it. He has not left his daddy's side for anything at all. He is so happy his daddy is home."
The vacation will be short-lived for Mr. Darisee, who must report to his new duty station at Fort Meade, Md. on Dec. 20. His wife and son will follow soon after. Before he leaves to Maryland to report in and secure housing, the family planned a birthday party for Austin and a private Christmas celebration. At least this time, Mr. Darisee's wife and son get to move with him.
"There's no hopefully about it," Mr. Darisee said. "They are."
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