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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Telephone (07/17/08)

TITLE: Called by Name
By Margaret Gass


I didn’t recognize him. I’m not even sure that I saw him. My focus was on the line of green and white before me as we filed two by two into the Civic Auditorium on this much-anticipated June day in 1983. Graduation…an end and a beginning for us all, though most of us couldn’t see that then.

The week had been a blur of finals and final rehearsals--for the Rose Parade, an awards assembly, Baccalaureate, and graduation itself--as some of my classmates finally got around to sending out their announcements while others scrounged for extra graduation tickets, which were almost as scarce as Wonka’s golden variety. Each senior received just eight tickets, and the school office made it clear that there would be NO exceptions, so I was more than surprised when I was called to the office to pick up a ticket for my dad.

I tried to give it back. “There must be a mistake--I already have a ticket for my mom’s boyfriend.” It was then that I learned that the ticket was for my father, as in birth father, who had traveled from Texas for my graduation and made it plain (by threatening a lawsuit) that he was not going to miss it.

Dad’s phone call had stirred up old wounds, and my getting an extra ticket almost made me have more than one extra, as there was a debate about which family members would come if “he” was there. My cousin drove me downtown so that I missed most of the “discussion,” and I joined my gowned classmates in the assembly area beneath the main floor. By the time I pinned on my cap and found my place in line, I had all but forgotten my own name.

We filed up the stairs, clutching index cards with our names phonetically spelled on them for the announcer. I was trying to hold the card in one hand and a domino in the other when I heard my given name in a slow, deep drawl. Instantly, I turned, but saw no one. Had I imagined it? I walked forward, and I heard it again. This time, my friend heard it, too, and we both turned and saw a man tip his cane at me.

I barely had time to process the image. He had gray hair and a full beard, and was nearly as wide as he was tall. He looked nothing like the dark-haired, trim, nineteen-year-old boy who slept with me on his chest in one of the two photos of him in my baby book. I handed my card to the announcer, walked onto the stage, placed my domino in line with those my friends had left, and received my diploma. I descended the steps and sunk into my seat, one journey over and another about to begin.

My mom, sister, and I met my father for a piece of pie the following Sunday afternoon. He said he had missed too much of our lives and wanted to change that. He wanted to start over. My sister wanted him to just go away, and I think my mom did, too. I had mixed feelings. Though he could never be my daddy, I wanted to know whose I was. I had made Jesus my Savior three years earlier, but I didn’t know how to approach God as a father. I didn’t know how to trust. I thought forgiving my earthly father might be the place to start. Three weeks after graduation, I found myself traveling across the country in a van with my dad, step-mother, and eight-year-old half-sister.

That trip began an eighteen year relationship with my dad, a relationship which developed over the phone. I saw him in person just twice more, when he flew me down for Easter and then Christmas two years later. He called on my birthday and Christmas; I called on his birthday and Easter. There were scattered calls in between. That Texas drawl became recognizable and a source of joy for me and my boy, who never met his grandpa, but knew he was loved by him. The phone calls stopped way too soon, when my step mom called to say that Dad had died in his sleep seven years ago.

I’ve stopped expecting him to call, of course, but on my birthday, Christmas, and Easter, I am reminded that my Father in Heaven loves me each time the phone rings.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Julie Paulsen07/25/08
Your story demonstrates the saddness children feel when a family breaks apart. It's heartwarming to see a relationship between father and son restored...if it's true, I'm happy for you.

Rhonda Clark07/25/08
This is a very nice story. Loved the memories.

I did wonder how it fit with the 'Telephone' topic. Maybe if you rearranged, or told the story in a different order, starting with the phone call he had died. Then moving on to the memories.

Great essay.
Yvonne Blake 07/26/08
Well written, although the title made me think it would be different than this. I think you could have spent more time on your relationship with your father instead of the graduation.
Well done. Keep writing.