Lincoln, Illinois, 1943
My father and I were always very close. Since my mother died when I was young, I had no one else to rely on but my father. I adored my Dad. He was my whole world. We did everything together; he even played dolls with me. He read books and comforted me when I was lonely or sick. He taught me about God and how He died for us our sins. And he wore this cologne that smelled wonderful, and I wondered if it had been Mom’s favorite.
America was in the middle of a war when the letter came. My father was sad for days after reading the letter. He wouldn’t tell me what it said, but I knew it was not good. I tried to ask him what was wrong and he would only stare at me for the longest of time, then pull me into a huge hug and hold me close.
I returned home from school to find he was not home from work. My thoughts immediately turned to the letter and I decided to go into his room to see if I could find it. It was resting on top of the dresser.
My reflection caught in the mirror and I shied away from it, knowing I was prying into private business. But I couldn’t help it. Why was this letter making my Dad so sad? My heart beat like drums as I reached for the envelope. The pounding died as the return address seized my attention.
‘United States War Department. Local Draft Board.’
I needed no further answers. The envelope slipped from my trembling grasp. I glanced in the mirror as tears cascaded down my cheeks and tears dripped off of my nose. My lips quivered. Blindly I threw myself down on my Dad’s bed, sobbing bitterly.
Oh, Lord, I don’t want him to go away. Please let him stay here. I don’t want to be alone. Please . . . don’t let him leave.
There was a scuffle of shoes at the door. I sat up, tears streaming down my face. My father was standing in the door way with his Fedora hat in his hands. I wiped my face.
“Why are you crying?” he asked gently in a voice that told me he knew.
I stared down at the letter on the floor then looked at him. His trusting blue eyes grabbed my attention.
He picked up the draft notice, holding it carefully in his hands. “Honey,” he said as he sat beside me, “I’m sorry. In the midst of war, things like this happen.”
“I don’t want you to leave, Dad,” I struggled out, my voice turning into sobs again.
“Oh, baby, I don’t want to go any more than you want me to but I have to. I’ve been drafted—
I burst into fresh tears and covered my face with my hands. He pulled me close. My arms latched around his neck fearfully. “What’s going to happen to me?” I sobbed. “I don’t want to be alone.”
“I’ve arranged for you to stay with the Clark’s. Listen— his calm voice soothed my soul “—we can write each other. It won’t be so bad.” He gently let go of me, lifting my chin up so I faced him.
I searched his trembling yet loving face and noticed he was trying hard not to cry. “What if you never come back?”
“Don’t worry about that,” he replied, raising his eyebrows. “God’s in control and He will take care of both of us.”
Several days later, we were standing on the platform, waiting for the train to arrive. The train whistle blared as it clacked into the station. I clung to my father’s arm. “You promise to write?” My voice sounded weak to my own ears.
He grabbed me in a tight embrace, and I buried my face in his coat. I smothered a wet-teared kiss on his cheek. “I love you, Daddy.” My heart crumbled as I watched him board the train. With tears rolling down my cheeks, I waved goodbye.
Months later, an envelope appeared on my bed. As I picked it up, I sank into the mattress, clutching it close to my heart. The wonderful aroma from the envelope reached my nostrils through the envelope and loosened the anxiety that had built inside. It was the smell that connected me with my father. I felt as though he were standing right beside me.
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