A large hand reached down to grasp my small hand. My daddy was walking me to school. I looked up at him in wonder. He was so tall. So strong. Dark wavy hair framed his tanned face. Deep blue eyes twinkled in the morning light. A whistle spewed from his lips. I felt safe. My daddy was with me.
Lost in my reflection, I suddenly felt daddy's hand gently release mine and nudge me inside the school door. As he squeezed me, he planted a warm kiss on my cheek.
My heart sank to let daddy go. I fought back the tears, reassuring myself that I would soon be home again.
The school bell rang and I bolted for the school door. Several yards down the sidewalk, I skidded to a stop. I waited as the traffic light changed from red to green. Then I dashed across the street to Mr. Adam's store, my routine stopping place after a tiring school day.
Inside the store, the aroma of fresh fruit filled my nostrils. I observed Mr. Adams in his blood-stained apron slicing meat behind the glass counter. Up front, the cashier rang up an elderly lady's goods as the bag boy meticulously sorted the items into a bag.
I veered to the right, past the cashier and straight to my favorite aisle--CANDY LANE! My mouth watered as I eyed the chocolate bars, lollipops, and bubble gum.
Mmm, what am I in the mood for today? I pondered. After scanning the goodie buffet, I decided on a two-cent piece of bubble gum--the rectangular pink kind with the twin halves wrapped in cartoon paper. I reached in my pocket to retrieve my money. To my chagrin, my pockets were empty. I frantically racked my brain for a solution. The thought struck that since kind Mr. Adams often gave me candy, he probably wouldn't care if I took this tiny piece of bubble gum. Settled in my mind, I quickly shoved the gum in my pocket and hurried to the door.
Once home, I laid the gum beside my bookbag on the kitchen table and went to the sink to get a drink of water. Just then, daddy entered the kitchen. In his typical booming fashion, he spoke: "How was school today?"
"Fine," I glibly responded.
Daddy glanced at my bookbag and then at the gum. "Where'd you get the gum?" he casually asked.
I set my glass down and slowly turned to face daddy while bracing my body against the counter. A flicker of guilt flashed across my mind. Hot shame started at my neck and crept up into my face.
Clearing my throat, I answered, "At Adam's Store." I hoped daddy would be satisfied with that answer. He wasn't. He knew he had not given me any treat money that day. Daddy persisted in his line of questioning. All of a sudden, I felt like I'd stepped into a wild west show. I was the bad guy and daddy was the law. I didn't like this show-down. I wanted to run away with the dust at my heels and not look back. But there would be no running today. I was cornered and I knew it.
"Did Mr. Adams give you the gum, Eileen?" daddy asked. My face turned red. I felt hot again. Like a trapped firefly trying to escape from a sealed jar, I longed for release from daddy's questions.
At last I mustered the courage to speak. "Well...no," I stammered, looking down at the floor. I nervously slid one foot back and forth across the tile. "But Mr. Adams always gives us candy anyway," I shot back. My words even sounded hollow to my ears. I knew I was in serious trouble. Daddy placed a high premium on honesty. This act of treachery was going to cost me. I watched daddy's hands. I expected him to spank me. Instead, he reached for the phone and called Mr. Adams.
When daddy hung up the phone, he turned and faced me. "You best take that gum back," he said with resolve. As I started to leave, daddy softened. He took my arm and gently patted my back. "Supper will be ready when you get home," he said.
In that instant, I felt a reassuring love emanating from daddy's hands. He had used his hands not only to instruct, but also to love, reminding me of my heavenly Father. How often God’s Son had used His hands to love people, to teach, to heal, and then to submit to the nails. All for my benefit.
My dad is eighty-seven now. He shuffles when he walks. I take his weak hand in my strong hand. He looks up at me with a smile and that familiar twinkle in his clear blue eyes and I smile back.
“Isn’t God good?” daddy says.
“Yes, daddy, He sure is,” I respond.
Eileen Rife, author of the Born for India trilogy, speaks to women’s groups on a variety of topics. Her current works in progress include Seasons of Hope and December Sunrise, inspired by the Sandy Hook shootings. www.eileenrife.com, www.eileen-rife.blogspot.com