18, No Time to Waste

Chapter Nine

   FALL WAS IN THE AIR, the football game on television was the center of attraction in our family room, the table was set, and the turkey was ready to be served.

   Cindy and Don, radiant in their newlywed happiness, sat to my left. Vern's parents, who had come from Michigan for the wedding, and my mother were across from me, and Kathi and the boys were next to Vern.

   He began to pray, "Heavenly Father, thank You for this special day that has such meaning to us as believers in Your Son. Thank You for Jesus Christ and His finished work on Calvary. Thank You for our families, all well and strong and together this day. Thank You for this food so bountifully given. Thank You, Lord, for all Your unmeasured love and grace given to us, Your children."

   "What's it like being married?" Kathi, with a mouthful of food asked Cindy point-blank. "Does it get kind of boring?"

   Cindy and Don looked at each other, laughed, and assured her it didn't.

   Kathi still couldn't believe Cindy was married. She was sure this wouldn't happen to her for a long time; she had places to go and things to do.

   We spent the day as many families do on Thanksgiving: eating, taking pictures, watching football games from far-away snowy states, thankful for the warmth and sunshine that is our Golden State. We looked at proofs of Cindy's wedding pictures, hardly believing that that beautiful night was over.

   When Thanksgiving was past and the last bit of turkey had found its way into hungry mouths, we began our preparation for that most exciting season of the year — Christmas. Vern's folks were staying for the holidays and the children were delighted, especially Kathi who adored her grandparents.

   As the season approached, the house became more and more festive; everyone was hiding presents — secrecy was in the air.

   Kathi took her grandparents Christmas shopping, running from one shopping mall to another, wherever they wanted to go. Grandma tells how Kathi would walk slowly through the stores with her, helping her in and out of the car — quite a feat for the fast-moving Kathi.

   We opened our gifts on Christmas Eve, lighting the fireplace in anticipation of the joy-packed evening. There were squeals of delight as everyone opened "just what I wanted." Kathi and Cindy giggled over their usual gift of slippers, which by now had become a tradition.

   We talked and reminisced about Grandpa Joe who was having his first Christmas in heaven.

   "I wonder what it's like," Kathi said dreamily, "to really see Jesus and all the people in the Bible." She thought a minute, "I hope it doesn't get boring. I wonder what you do all the time."

   But all sadness was dispelled as the opened packages mounted and the gaily colored wrapping paper created so much debris that our living room seemed to get smaller by the minute.

   In the background the stereo softly played Christmas carols. A buffet lunch was set out on the table, and Vern and I looked at each other with a quiet contentment. This was our twenty-first Christmas as husband and wife. They had all been meaningful and happy ones. Our blessings could never be counted.

   Spring came suddenly, and with it, Easter Sunday. That morning I was at the front of the church at the piano, arranging the music that I would play during the service, when I looked up and saw Kathi and her friend Hope directing nine tall husky fellows down the aisle. She had left home early that morning saying that she was picking someone up for church. But nine boys?

   At dinner we learned that they were the star football players at Cleveland High.

   "How did you manage to get them all to church?" Vern asked her.

   "I just told them to be ready and I'd pick them up," she said. "I told them it was Easter Sunday and they should be in church."

   Vern and I looked at each other in silent amazement. That was Kathi! When she felt something should be done, she did it.

   "And what did they think of the message?" Vern asked.

   "I don't know what they thought," she said, "but they heard the Gospel message, and that's what I wanted them to hear — about Jesus going to the cross. And best of all, the Resurrection!"

   Later in the spring I began to hear of Kathi's plan to leave home and get an apartment with Felicia.

   Kathi had often mentioned, ever since childhood, her desire to be a missionary, "to really rough it in the jungles and tell everyone about Jesus." Now all of this was changing — I thought. Because of Felicia, everything would be different. I was afraid of what might happen to my daughter, leaving home so young.

   "You're just going to get in with the wrong crowd, two girls living away from home like that," I said bitterly.

   "But, mom, Felicia's folks are moving to Texas right after graduation, and she doesn't want to go," Kathi explained.

   "It's out of the question! Besides, how can you afford it? You just don't realize the money involved."

   "We have jobs waiting for us at Norm's Coffee Shop. We can do it, mom, just give us a chance!" Kathi begged.

   "It's not God's will for you to leave home," I said firmly.

   "But what if it is? she questioned through her tears.

   I couldn't answer that. I was torn inside, and hurt. It's your pride, part of me whispered. What would your friends say? It would ruin your image of a perfect home.

   The full force of their plans for the move to the apartment struck me just a month before Kathi's graduation. I had to go to the hospital for minor surgery, and when I came home, I was still shaky. But Kathi brought up the subject fearlessly and defiantly. She was determined to go.

   "Then go!" Tears of anger and hurt pride were streaming down my face. "Take your clothes and leave."

   I threw myself on the bed and sobbed. I was taken back to the hospital that night in pain.

   I lay in the hospital bed, calling for Kathi and fighting my feelings and pride. I knew that I must let her go — that in releasing her I would be at peace with my second daughter. I prayed and struggled as I lay there thinking of my little girl, now grown-up, and I came to a decision.

   When I returned home from the hospital, Kathi was playing the piano. She turned on the bench and faced me. I walked to her, hugged her to me, and began to cry, gently at first.

   "Kathi, I'm sorry." I held her face in my hands and looked into those luminous dark eyes that were beginning to spill tears. "Let's try, really try, to understand each other. As soon as you graduate, I'll help you find an apartment, if that's what you really want."

   And then the flood of tears broke loose.

   Graduation was only a few days away, and Kathi was running faster than ever, upstairs and down, in and out, greatly excited and very happy. Actually much of her attention was focused not upon graduation itself, but upon the all-night party at Disneyland, the annual treat given to high school graduates of the Los Angeles area. Every girl has a beautiful new dress for the occasion, and dates are made far in advance.

   "What are you wearing to Disneyland?" I asked Kathi about a week before the big event. Her answer was non-committal. Why bother about something a whole week away? There was so much to do now.

   On the day of graduation the phone rang in Vern's office.

   "Do you have a daughter, Kathi?" a voice asked. It was the May Company department store, asking if she could use our charge account for the purchase of a dress. Vern consented.

   At six-thirty that night, a half-hour before she was due to leave for the graduation ceremony and then Disneyland, I was frantically taking up the hem of what already seemed to me to be a micro-mini dress. My fingers were shaking and the usual furor pervaded the atmosphere.

   "Why couldn't you have done this sooner?" I scolded.

   No answer.

   "You're going to be late, Kathi! You drive me to distraction."

   But when Kathi put the dress on, my anger vanished. She looked like an angel in the black and white polka dot frock with huge sleeves. Since that day we have called it the "Angel Dress."

   As she hurried off, she said, "Felicia and I have dates with Brad and Jon — she with Brad and I with Jon — but we're going to switch."

   "You're going to switch?" I repeated, baffled.

   "Yeah, we decided Brad likes me better and Jon likes Felicia better, so we're going to switch!" Logical.

   "Oh," was all I could think to say as she flew out the door. "Have fun."

   She did. She slept all the next day, but when she woke up she recounted the fun of the evening with excitement still dancing in her eyes. The all-night party had been a big success for Kathi.

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