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M. C. Syben
Not For Sale
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Church-going is not the adjective to describe my dad. In fact, as a child, I overheard him yelling at my Mom for sending three out of six children to the local Baptist church, “filling our heads with nonsense.” Yet, as he reached his seventies, he turned up the volume on the car radio to discern a preacher more clearly on our drive to Ocean City, New Jersey.
The program was an old-time come-to-Jesus invitation and my dad fixated on every word. I smiled quietly, knowing better than to interrupt anything my father concentrated on. He was a patriarchal old-school German.
But, as the last of six children, I also knew his soft side. When I had chicken pox, he paced the floor, feeling my feverish head and tummy every few minutes. My brother had a particularly hard time recovering from measles—he recuperated in Florida for two weeks with my Dad.
However, it wasn’t just the children that saw his soft side. Mr. Silverman lived down the street in a Munster’s mansion. No joke. It was an old Victorian with no indoor plumbing or electric. If I remember the story correctly, Mr. Silverman married and his bride died soon afterward. He became a recluse in that manor speaking to no one but my father.
I’d walk there holding my father’s hand. As we’d approach, Mr. Silverman, sprinted out the front door to greet us. “Hello, Walter.” I retreated behind my father’s knee. “He stunk, Daddy,” I’d offer when my father asked why later. How grateful Mr. Silverman had been for the company my father offered him when apparently no one else would.
Then there was The Count, a retired magician my father knew from work. He had terminal cancer yet his family refused his care. Dad brought him home to mom’s home cooked meals until the very last days when an ambulance carried The Count away.
One Christmas, I gifted my Dad a ten pound Hershey’s chocolate bar. Even though Dad loved his chocolate, he bestowed it to a visiting Down’s syndrome child. I’m ashamed to say I felt slighted those many years ago. In retrospect, I couldn’t be more proud.
Dad’s been gone a long time now. I’ll be joining him one day. But I wonder: to others, my Dad’s eccentricities and temper may have appeared to outweigh his goodness. It is not for anyone to judge. However, I do know my Dad was a Good Samaritan by nature long before he heard that old-time radio invitation to Christ. How many Christians can claim that?
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