by George Parler
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The congregation sang “Happy Birthday” to the slightly embarrassed sixteen-year old. Katie was the daughter of ordained ministers and the granddaughter of the pastors of our church. She was a typical preacher’s offspring and teenager. But this was no typical birthday because I had something to share with the church concerning Katie that even she probably didn’t remember; something that I had waited fourteen and a half years to say.
After the offering had been received I took a microphone, stood before the congregation, and called Katie to come to the front with me. From the expression on her face I could tell she was reluctant, being unsure as to what I was up to. Of course the fact that I have a history of joking around didn’t make her steps to the front any more confident. When she finally made her way beside me I smiled at her and said, “Relax.” This only succeeded in making her more uneasy as I began to share the story that I had patiently waited for many years to tell her.
“Katie probably has no memory of this but from the time she was born and old enough to recognize faces she was terrified of the sight of mine. Even in a crowded room she would be laughing and playing until she caught sight of me. After that she would not take her eyes off of me. If I even remotely moved as if to walk toward her she would start crying and scream for her parents. She was the only child that was ever like that around me and I was the only person she was terrified to be around. No matter what I did I could never win her over, so I would always make a wide pass around her if we were in the same room.
Then the day came, when Katie was around eighteen months old, that a couple from our church had invited the whole congregation to their home in the country for food and fellowship. During the festivities outside I was talking to a few other men when I felt something pulling on my pants leg. I glanced down and in my astonishment saw that it was . . . Katie?
I reasoned that this wasn’t going to be good. She’s going to look up and see who it really is and freak out. Everyone will probably think I pinched her or something when she starts screaming for her parents. I figured she must have thought I was her dad because he and I were wearing the same colored pants. Feeling her constant tug on my pants I realized she was not going to give up and move on so I slowly looked down into this tiny face that stared up at mine. I could tell she had something in her mouth as she stared at me with her bulging cheek. I didn’t blink. Slowly she reached into her mouth and removed its contents. She raised her closed fist that had her slobber streaming from it. I couldn’t see what was in her hand but she definitely wanted me to take it. Reluctantly, I reached down and opened my hand as she plopped a white, oval shaped rock into my hand, slobber and all. Then she just stood there as if she was waiting for a response from me. I smiled and said, ‘Thank you, Katie.’ Her face beamed with a smile as she turned and trotted off to go play.
I stood there dumbfounded for a moment but eventually I couldn’t stop smiling. From that day forward, Katie, no longer had any fear or reluctance to be around me. I guess she made peace with me on her own terms and I was glad. Since then I have had the privilege to watch her grow up into a beautiful young woman of God.”
I then turned to, Katie, and said, “Young lady, I don’t know why, but after that day I later decided that I would wait and if I was still around on your sixteenth birthday, I wanted to share that story with you and give you this. …”
With that I reached out my closed fist to her as she held out her hand. After waiting fourteen and a half years, on January 17, 2010, I dropped a white, oval shaped rock into her hand and said, “Here’s your rock back, Katie; . . . minus the slobber. Happy sixteenth birthday.”
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Another winner! So enjoying reading your writing tonight. It is wonderful to be around long enough to see young people mature in their faith, and to be a part of that too.
George I loved your story, and your granddaughter will treasure it as long as she lives. As my high school students say, "You rock!"
You're too much! I wasn't prepared for that ending but it was just perfect. You astonish me with your sensitive side and makes me want to encourage you to write, write and write some more. Music may be your gift, but writing is right up there with it! Big time kudos on this one!
I truly loved this story and the heart that wrote it! This had to be the beginning of a wonderful relationship, especially to a stunned teenager! Great job!
George, you made me want to cry! I wasn't prepared for the ending, but such a perfect story, told so well, is a winner. Thanks for giving us this real-life story-within-a-story heart-tugger. I betcha the house was full of other glistening teary eyes! Thank you, too, for your recent comments on my latest postings. I sure appreciate you and your support.