By the time I was ten, I was totally ashamed of my father. All my friends called him names: Quasi-Moto, hunchback, monster, little Frankenstein, the crooked little man with the crooked little cane. At first it hurt when they called him those things, but soon I found myself agreeing with them. He was ugly, and I knew it!
My father was born with something called parastremmatic dwarfism. The disease made him stop growing when he was about thirteen and caused his body to twist and turn into a grotesque shape. It wasn't too bad when he was a kid. I saw pictures of him when he was about my age. He was a little short but quite good-looking. Even when he met my mother and married her when he was nineteen, he still looked pretty normal. He was still short and walked with a slight limp, but he was able to do just about anything. Mother said, "He even used to be a great dancer."
Soon after my birth, things started getting worse. Another genetic disorder took over, and his left foot started turning out, almost backward. His head and neck shifted over to the right; his neck became rigid and he had to look over his left shoulder a bit. His right arm curled in and up and his index finger almost touched his elbow. His spine warped to look something like a big, old roller coaster and it caused his torso to lie sideways instead of stright up and down like a normal person. His walk became slow, awkward, and deliberate. He had to almost drag his left foot as he used his deformed right arm to balance his gait.
I hated to be seen with him. Everyone stared. They seemed to pity me. I knew he must have done something really bad to have God hate him that much.
By the time I was seventeen, I was blaming all my problems on my father. I didn't have the right boyfriends because of him. I didn't drive the right car because of him. I wasn't pretty enough because of him. I didn't have the right jobs because of him. I wasn't happy because of him.
Anything that was wrong with me, or my life, was because of him. If my father had been good-looking, like James' father, or successful like Paul's father, worldly like Terry's father, I would be perfect! I knew that for sure.
The night of my senior prom came, and Father had to place one more nail in my coffin; he had volunteered to be one of the chaperones at the dance. My heart just sank when he told me. I stormed into my room, slammed the door, threw myself on the bed, and cried.
"Three more weeks and I'll be out of here!" I screamed into my pillow. "Three more weeks and I will have graduated and be moving away to college." I sat up and took a deep breath. "God, please make my father go away and leave me alone. He keeps sticking his big nose in everything I do. Just make him disappear, so that I can have a good time at the dance."
I got dressed, my date picked me up, and we went to the prom. Father followed in his car behind us. When we arrived, Father seemed to vanish into the pink chiffon drapes that hung everywhere in the auditorium. I thanked God that he had heard my prayer. At least now I could have some fun.
Midway through the dance, Father came out from behind the drapes and decided to embarrass me again. He started dancing with my girlfriends. One by one, he took their hand and led them to the dance floor. He then clumsily moved them in circles as the band played. Now I tried to vanish in the drapes.
After Jane had danced with him, she headed my way.
"Oh no!" I thought "She's going to tell me he stomped on her foot or something."
"Grace," she called, "you have the greatest father." My face fell. "What?"
She smiled at me and grabbed my shoulders. "Your father's just the best. He's funny, kind, and always finds the time to be where you need him. I wish my father was more like that."
For one of the first times in my life, I couldn't talk. Her words confused me. "What do you mean?" I asked her.
"What do you mean, what do I mean? Your father's wonderful. I remember when we were kids, and I'd sleep over at your house. He'd always come into your room, sit down in the chair between the twin beds, and read us a book. I'm not sure my father can even read," she sighed, and then smiled. "Thanks for sharing him."
Then, Jane ran off to dance with her boyfriend. I stood there in silence. A few minutes later, Paul came to stand beside me. "He's sure having a lot of fun." "What? Who? Who's having a lot of fun?" I asked.
"Your father. He's having a ball."
"Yeah, I guess." I didn't know what else to say. "You know, he's always been there," Paul said. "I remember when you and I were on the mixed doubles soccer team. He tried out as the coach, but he couldn't run up and down the field, remember? So they picked Jackie's father instead. That didn't stop him. He showed up for every game and did whatever needed to be done. He was the team's biggest fan. I think he's the reason we won so many games. Without him, it just would have been Jackie's father running up and down the field yelling at us. Your father made it fun. I wish my father had been able to show up to at least one of our games. He was always too busy."
Paul's girlfriend came out of the restroom, and he went to her side, leaving me once again speechless.
My boyfriend came back with two glassed of punch and hande me one. "Well, what do YOU think of my father?" I asked out of the blue.
Terry looked surprised, "I like him. I always have."
"Then why did you call him names when we were kids?"
"I don't know. Because he was different, and I was dumb kid."
"When did you stop calling him names?" I asked, trying to search my own memory.
Terry didn't even have to think about the answer. "The day he sat down with me outside by the pool and held me while I cried about my mother and father's divorce. No one else would let me talk about it. I was hurting inside, and he could feel it. He cried with me that day. I thought you knew."
I looked at Terry and a tear rolled down my cheek as long-forgotten memories started cascading into my consciousness.
When I was three, my puppy got killed by another dog, and my father was there to hold me and teach me what happens when the pets we love die. When I was five, my father took me to my first day of school. I was so scared. So was he. We cried and held each other that first day. The next day he became the teacher's helper. When I was eight, I just couldn't do math. Father sat down with me night after nigh, and we worked on math problems until math became easy for me. When I was ten, my father bought me a brand-new bike. When it was stolen, because I didn't lock it up like I was taught to do, my father gave me jobs to do around the house so I could make enough money to purchase another one. When I was thirteen and my first love broke up with me, my father was there to yell at, to blame, and to cry with. When I was fifteen and I got to be in the honor society, my father was there to see me get the accolade. Now, when I was seventeen, he put with with me no matter how nasty I became or how high my hormones raged.
As I looked at my father dancing gaily with my friends, a big toothy grin on his face, I suddenly saw him differently. The handicaps weren't his, they were mine! I had spent a great deal of my life hating the man who loved me. I had hated the exterior that I saw, and I had ignored the interior that contained his God-given heart. I suddenly felt very ashamed.
I asked Terry to take me home, too overcome with feelings to remain.
On graduation day, at my Christian high school, my name was called, and I stood behind the podium as the valedictorian of my class. As I looked out over the people in the audience, my gaze rested on my father in the front row sitting next to my mother. He sat there, in his one and only, specially made suit, holding my mother's hand and smiling.
Overcome with emotions, my prepared speech was to become a landmark of my life.
"Today I stand here as an honor student, able to graduate with a 4.0 average. Yes, I was in the honor society for three years and was elected class president for the last ...
Continue reading this sermon illustration (Free with PRO)
Related Text Illustrations
Contributed by Sermoncentral on Apr 12, 2007
Rare is the person who can weigh the faults of others without putting ...read more