Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)
- TITLE: Papa's Return
By Christine Dunn
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Margot was lying. I’m sure of it! She said Papa taught her how to play chess, and gave her piggy backs in the garden.
Well, I’m quite certain that either she was telling fibs, or else someone different has come home to replace my father. His eyes don’t dance with mischief at all. In fact, when he first arrived, he just stared right through me like I was a bit of that tracing paper Johnny owns.
He greeted us in a vacant way, then went round us all trying to remember our names. He pointed out Margot, Sally and Johnny, but no, he couldn’t think of mine. Mama says it’s because I was only a baby when he left. Still, he should have recalled my name. I asked her why he had changed so, and she told me he had a really hard time as a P.O.W. I didn’t want to ask what that was in case she scolded me for asking too many questions. He must have seen some awful stuff if he forgot so much about his family.
Well, at least the party was good. Granny made her apple pie and sponge cake. There were even some sausages! I hadn’t seen so much food in all of my eight years. Papa didn’t seem to notice. He just sat in the rocking chair and said nothing. Then he went up to bed.
October 17th, 1945 - 2.00 AM!
I wasn’t going to write again, but I just can’t get back to sleep. I’m sitting in the kitchen so that I don’t waken Margot or Sally.
What woke me up with a start was a whole lot of yelling and screaming. It was a man’s voice and that made it more troubling to me. I wish I hadn’t opened Mama’s door, and glimpsed Papa in a terrible state. He must have had a nightmare. Mama just told me to go back to bed, but I’m scared. Who is this stranger, upsetting our little house? Will Papa ever really come back?
October 18th, 1945
This morning, Sally and I were practising skipping. She’s still better than me as she can now jump in. Anyway, it was while we were doing this that Mama called me in.
She asked me to bring Papa some bread, jam and tea. I don’t know why she didn’t ask Sally, since she’s the one he knows, and can carry the tray more steadily.
When I went over to the rocking chair he wasn’t there. So I looked everywhere, but couldn’t find him. I went outside and found him crouching down at the side of the house. His eyes bored through me when he saw me, and he said, “Shhh. They’re listening.”
When I asked him who, he said there were German spies surrounding the house. I tried to tell him the war was over, and I didn’t think anyone was there, but he just shooed me away.
I decided not to tell Mama. I just left his food on the table beside his chair.
October 19th, 1945
I have to repeat Psalm twenty-seven in Sunday School today. Mama made me practise it this morning. She told me that I should read it to Papa. She says she has been reading to him before bedtime, as it calms him.
So I stood before him, and tried to read it in my clearest voice. The Psalm is all about praising God because He overcomes our fears and enemies. I hoped Papa understood it.
When I had finished it, he asked me to read it again. I supposed he wanted me to know it off by heart, and not make a fool of myself in front of the other children.
Then he asked me to read it a third, and a fourth time. By this stage, I didn’t have to look at the page, so I just watched Papa instead. His eyes were closed, and he looked more peaceful than ever. I could see the corners of his lips turn up, as though he was trying to smile.
When I had finished, he opened his eyes, and looked at me almost lovingly. Suddenly the words of those verses meant something more to me.
That was when he touched my hand and said, “Thank you, Elizabeth.”
I feel like crying tears of joy. Papa’s slowly coming home!
*Psalm 27 v5 - ‘For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. ‘(NIV)
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