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was sitting in my favorite chair, studying for the final
stages of my doctoral degree, when Sarah announced herself in
my presence with a question: “Daddy, do you want to see my
“Sarah, Daddy’s busy. Come back in a
little while, Honey.”
Good move, right? I was busy.
A week’s worth of work to squeeze into a weekend. You’ve been
Ten minutes later she swept back into the living
room. “Daddy, let me show you my picture.”
went up around my collar. “Sarah,” I said, “come back later.
This is important.”
Three minutes later she stormed
into the living room, got three inches from my nose and barked
with all the power a five-year-old could muster: “Do you want
to see it or don’t you?” The assertive woman in
“No,” I told her, “I don’t.”
that, she zoomed out of the room and left me alone. And
somehow, being alone at that moment wasn’t as satisfying as I
thought it would be. I felt like a jerk. (Don’t agree so
loudly.) I went to the front door.
“Sarah,” I called,
“could you come back inside a minute, please? Daddy would like
to see your picture.”
She obliged with no
recriminations and popped up on my lap.
It was a great
picture. She’d even given it a title. Across the top, in her
best printing, she had inscribed: “OUR FAMILY
“Tell me about it,” I said.
Mommy [a stick figure with long, yellow, curly hair], here is
me standing by Mommy [with a smiley face], here is our dog
Katie, and here is Missy [her little sister was a stick figure
lying in the street in front of the house, about three times
bigger than anyone else].” It was a pretty good insight into
how she saw our family.
“I love your picture, Honey,” I
told her. “I’ll hang it on the dining room wall, and each
night when I come home from work and from class (which was
usually around 10:00 p.m.), I’m going to look at
She took me at my word, beamed ear to ear and went
outside to play. I went back to my books. But for some reason
I kept reading the same paragraph over and
Something was making me uneasy.
about Sarah’s picture.
Something was missing.
went to the front door. “Sarah,” I called, “could you come
back inside a minute, please? I want to look at your picture
Sarah crawled back into my lap. I can
close my eyes right now and see the way she looked. Cheeks
rosy from playing outside. Pigtails, Strawberry Shortcake
tennis shoes. A Cabbage Patch doll named Nellie tucked limply
under her arm.
I asked my little girl a question, but I
wasn’t sure I wanted to hear the answer.
“Honey . . .
there’s Mommy, and Sarah, and Missy. Katie the dog is in the
picture, and the sun, and the house, and squirrels and
birdies. But Sarah . . . where is your
“You’re at the library,” she
With that simple statement, my little princess
stopped time for me. Lifting her gently off my lap, I sent her
back to play in the spring sunshine. I slumped back in my
chair with a swirling head and blood pumping furiously through
my heart. Even as I type these words into the computer, I can
feel those sensations all over again. It was a frightening
moment. The fog lifted from my preoccupied brain for a
moment—and suddenly I could see. But what I saw scared me to
death. It was like being in a ship and coming out of the fog
in time to see a huge, sharp rock knifing through the surf
just off the port bow.
pronouncement—“You’re at the library”—got my attention
I hung the drawing on the dining room wall,
just as I promised my girl. And through those long, intense
weeks preceding the oral defense of my dissertation, I stared
at that revealing portrait. It happened every night in the
silence of my sleeping home, as I consumed my late-night,
warmed-over dinners. I didn’t have the guts to bring the issue
up to Barbara. And she had the incredible insight to let it
rest until I had the courage to deal with it. I finally
finished my degree program. I was “Dr. Rosberg” now, and I
guess should have been a big deal for me. But frankly, there
wasn’t much joy in my life.
One night after graduation,
Barbara and I were lying in bed together and I found myself
working up the nerve to ask her a few questions. It was late,
it was dark, and as I murmured my first question, I was
praying Barbara had already fallen asleep. “Barb, are you
“No,” she said. Rats! I thought to myself.
Now I’m committed.
“Barbara, you’ve obviously
seen Sarah’s picture taped on the dining room wall. Why
haven’t you said anything?”
“Because I know how much it
wounded you, Gary.” Words from a woman wise beyond her
twenty-something years. At that point, I asked the toughest
question I’ve ever asked anyone in my life.
“Barb . . .
I want to come home. Can I do it?”
Twenty seconds of
silence followed. It seemed like I held my breath for an hour.
“Gary,” Barb said carefully, “the girls and I love you very
much. We want you home. But you haven’t been here. I’ve felt
like a single parent for years.”
The words look cold in
print, but she said them with restraint and tenderness. It was
just plain, unvarnished truth. My little girl had drawn the
picture, and now her mom was speaking the words. My life had
been out of control, my family was on automatic pilot, and I
had a long road ahead of me if I wanted to win them
But I had to win them back. Now that the fog had
lifted, it suddenly became the most important thing in my
BEING A MINISTER
After a church service on Sunday Morning, a
young boy suddenly announced to his mother, "Mom, I've
decided to become a minister when I grow up."
"That's nice dear, but what made you decide
"Well," said the little boy, "I have to
go to church on Sunday anyway, and I figure it will be
more fun to stand up and yell than to sit down and
SUMMER SHRIMP SALAD
1 pound frozen cooked medium shrimp
- 5 ounces
- 1/2 cup low-fat
- 2 tablespoons minced green
- 1/4 cup minced celery
cup chopped roasted red bell pepper
teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon
- Salt to taste
- 8 tomato
Thaw the shrimp and peas
In a large bowl, mix the thawed
shrimp and peas with the
mayonnaise, celery, green
onion, red bell pepper, and
spices. Refrigerate for 1
hour. Serve with tomato
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