Many have requested some of my column stories, so I’ll be sharing some the next 6 weeks. Father’s Day, of course, I thought of the many lessons Daddy taught me – still timely.
Heady with excitement, Daddy’s third child to turn sixteen and receive a driver’s license carefully backed out of the driveway. The deep wine 1950s highly curved bumpers eased around the corner and then picked up speed as I hurried to collect three girlfriends for a promised joy ride.
One-by-one the scene repeated: each of my three friends’ mothers warning us to ‘drive carefully, each girls’ running footsteps, and each door on the Buick carefully closing completed the choreographed feeling of an important life-vignette.
Four excited girls permeated the car with excitement, all talking at once with laughter the only punctuation. We’d completed our junior year and were celebrating our official senior status with a time-of-our-lives attitude, and I was high with the status of commanding the wheel.
Knowing I’d be watched, every stop and turn as we passed through town was completed with exaggerated care. The windows were rolled-down just enough to let in the elixir of schools-out-summer’s-here yet left room to stick an arm out to wave at the boys.
Overconfident and giddy by the time we approached the sprawling farmsteads a few miles north of town, I swung the car to the right onto a gravel road, barely reducing speed as we turned. I could feel the rocks shifting beneath us. The car wobbled a bit, the girls screamed, and I applied the brakes too suddenly.
Daddy’s car hesitated as if making up its mind, and then began tipping to the right. Our screaming escalated as the car tilted farther on the passenger side, until Pam in the front passenger seat was on her side. Then, miraculously, the car’s movement stopped. Pam’s surprised eyes met my fearful ones. Fleeting thoughts of the very real possibility of being grounded to graduation passed through my numbed brain. Feeling as though a giant hand had frozen us in time, we continued to gape at each other, not knowing what to expect. The car rocked precariously a moment, then tilted back toward the driver side and dropped upright on the rock-strewn road, springs squeaking and metal clanging.
Shocked silence reigned as we assessed one another. We unsteadily climbed out of the car, tested our limbs and joined on the passenger side to examine the ditch.
Happily discovering a tall and recently plowed berm along the edge of the farm property, we realized the dirt had stopped the car from rolling. Guilty laughter edged our conversation then as we slowly walked around the dusty exterior to assess any reportable damage. No scratch, ding or dent that any of us could see. Eyes sparkled now with conspiracy as we ‘thoughtfully’ agreed to wash the car and spare my father the anxiety of hearing the details.
We pooled our funds and I slowly drove the subdued but giggling band of conspirators to rinse away the evidence. Then we stopped by a nearby lake, walking and talking until we were supposed to be home.
Dad and Mom looked up from the kitchen table as I entered and asked how the first drive went. “The girls loved it,” I said, dropping the keys on the square white Formica table. “We went to Lake Antoine and walked around a bit. It sure is pretty there.” I went up to my room and turned on the radio to drown any guilty thoughts.
Every day for the next few weeks we raised eyebrows in query when passing one another in the school hall, relieved to see heads shake in the negative. No one had said anything. Feeling safe, we put it behind us.
Gadding about town selling Senior Yearbook ads and preparing for graduation made time fly. About to board a train to Racine, Dad hugged me and I leaned in to say thanks for everything. His answering whisper was a shock.
“Love you,” he said, “but why did you never tell me about tipping the car your first day out?” Shamed, I moved to step out of his arms, but he held me gently, and I looked into his eyes and confessed. “I didn’t think you knew.”
He let me unravel the truth, answering with a smile. “I know. The farmer living there saw the whole thing. He recognized our car and called me to see if everyone was OK.”
I rolled my eyes, and Daddy chuckled. “You’re going to start a new adventure today,” he added, “and you might want to keep both of these lessons in mind – even in the big city: One, I hoped you would tell me…trust me with the truth…” He paused as a tear slipped down my cheek, “but,” he finished, wiping away the salty proof of my guilt, “I think you have learned that like the farmer, I only want to know to help you, to know that you are OK.”
Nodding, I understood the price of my secret and the second lesson echoed in my heart as the train pulled away, “Remember,” he’d said, “Live like Someone is watching.”
Prov. 15:3 The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good.
2Chr. 16:9 For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.