Waiting at the window, I arranged the blue ruffles on my brand new dress and flipped my hair around to look just right.
It was a night to be fancy. It was my first date.
My face was flushed as I looked forward to the night ahead. I knew it was a big deal to be taken out and I would get special treatment. I would pick the restaurant and maybe we would have some ice cream and walk around downtown before the sun went down.
After that, I was pretty sure we could go to the store and that he would buy me a toy.
I barely said goodbye to Mom or Ben as I ran into the driveway where Dad was pulling up from work. I got to the car and I still remember that smile lighting up his face. He picked me up and twirled me around.
“You are a beautiful date,” he said, and I believed him.
Because daddies don’t lie.
He opened my car door for me and I slid into the passenger seat.
My knight in shining armor had just picked me on his trusty steed—which was our old red Buick with duct tape over the back window. I don’t remember what happened to the window but I do remember him in the driveway carefully taping it up.
I’ll admit I was kind of embarrassed about it sometimes when he would drop me off for school in the mornings, and especially when some of the popular kids were gathered around the front door.
But that night it was as good as a Mercedes to me.
We talked about life and Jesus over root beer at Pizza Works, after I went back in and back out of that little door on the front of the building (and if you ever went to Pizza Works then I know you remember that door) until he finally told me it was time to grab a table.
While waiting for dinner, he told me stories about his childhood and when he and his friends would walk to Bud’s Golden Cream for ice cream or to Adam’s Market for some candy. He also talked about his Navy buddy, Doodlebug.
As the waitress approached with our half-supreme and half-cheese, I saw her wobble a bit.
Before I knew it, red sauce splattered across my powder blue fabric and hot cheese steamed up my lap. As I opened my mouth to scream, I saw something happened that has impacted me more than I can say.
My pizza-covered dad kneeled down to our waitress and helped her clean up the mess on the floor. He did it quietly and with every effort to make it as little of a scene as possible.
He smiled at her as she tearfully apologized and explained that she was new. Dad waved his hand.
“Don’t apologize. We can wait. I am sure I can find another story to tell.”
He did tell me another story about his great uncle Mike, also known as Moonshine Mike. And you might guess why.
But the greatest story he told that night was in his actions and the way he treated others (and the way he treated me).
When our pizza came, we chowed down and then went on to Baskin-Robbins and on to SuperX where he bought me a package of my favorite sparkly lip gloss. Through it all, he never mentioned anything about helping that waitress but he didn’t have to—watching him do it was enough.
Grace. Respect. Humility.
Dad exemplified Christ in daily life and he taught me the greatest lessons through that.
He would be the first to tell you he wasn’t perfect but he truly lived for the Lord.
And now with my own boys, I remember that lessons are taught through actions. They are taught through example.
I am sure I don’t remember all of the times he showed me such a pure example of Christ, but that night, I will never forget.
My first date—what a special night.