By Debbonnaire Kovacs
Susannah May Farmer lay on her stomach on her bed, writing a letter to Mackenzie Isabelle (Mac) Evans, in Oregon. First, she told her all about the twins, Tina and Tania Warner, who looked so much alike but were really different. Then she told her about the baptism of the entire Washington family and how all the kids got to go to church school. Last, but not least, she told Mac about her birthday. “I’m going to be ten years old in two days! Two numbers in my age! Isn’t that cool? That means I can go to the junior class at church after the first of the year. I could go before then if I wanted to, but I want to stay with my friends. I think Solly might be ready to go to juniors after the first of the year too. Then there would be two of us.”
Susannah flopped over on her back and chewed on her pencil for a while. She didn’t feel as happy as she wanted Mac to think she did. Even though she had felt better after talking to Solly about promises the other day, she still felt sad and angry when she thought about her dad missing her birthday—again! She tried to believe Dad loved her as much as he loved his new wife and the baby. But sometimes she wondered. Sometimes she even wondered if she loved him. Then she felt guilty as well as sad and angry.
Susannah sat up. She would go help Mom with dinner and finish her letter later.
The next afternoon, Susannah and Mom loaded up all the boys and went to the store. They got there just as Mr. Washington’s shift was ending and he was coming out the door.
“Hey, folks!” he greeted them cheerfully. Mr. Washington was always cheerful. He and Susannah’s mom talked for a few minutes. Then his face lit up and he called, “There’s my Sugar Plum! I thought you’d forgotten your old dad today!”
Kenya pedaled up on her bike, out of breath. “I didn’t forget, Daddy! I just lost track of time!” She got off her bike and almost disappeared into her father’s hug. Susannah looked away, biting her lip.
As Susannah herded her two little brothers into the store, she looked back and watched Kenya pedaling slowly beside her dad. They were talking and laughing together. Once, Kenya’s bike wavered, and her dad reached out his big hand to steady it.
Then Luke and Johnny started arguing over who got to drive the shopping cart that was shaped like a car. Susannah didn’t have much time to think of dads during the hour that followed.
That night after supper and chores, Susannah went to see Solly. He was in the practice ring, riding Sultan around in circles. Mr. El-charif stood near the fence, calling directions and encouragement.
“Hi, Susannah!” Solly called. “Want to ride?”
Usually, Susannah loved to ride with Solly. He and his family were teaching her to ride English style. Today she said, “No, thanks, I’ll just watch for a while.”
It turned out to be a short while. Mr. El-charif kept smiling and applauding when Solly did something right, and he never lost his patience when Solly missed something. He stopped Solly and checked his stirrup leathers and patted his knee. Susannah told them she had to go home and help her mother get the little boys to bed.
She rubbed hot tears from her eyes before she went inside. After Mark, Luke, and Johnny were in bed, she and Matt read their primary lesson. Because Jacob had cheated his brother and father, he had to leave home. When he was away from his family, feeling frightened and guilty, God had sent him a special dream of a ladder reaching heaven, with angels going up and down on it. The lesson said we can know we belong to God’s family, no matter what happens.
Susannah thought about that in bed that night. “God,” she whispered in the darkness, “thank You that I can know You are my Dad, no matter what. Is it wrong that I still wish I had a dad I could touch?”
The next morning, she was awakened by what appeared to be an earthquake.
“Happy birthday!” Mark shouted, jumping on her bed.
“Wake up, sleepyhead!” Matt bellowed, racing around the room like a colt.
“Happy birfday!” Johnny squealed, bouncing on Susannah’s ribs.
“Come see your cake!” Luke shrieked, patting her face.
“Ow, OK. OK! I’m coming!” Susannah giggled.
The cake was shaped like a barn, with toy horses looking out the door. The presents her little brothers had made her were wonderful, and the collectible horse Mom had somehow managed to buy made her squeal almost as loudly as Johnny, who was banging his spoon on the table. She tried to forget there was nothing from Dad.
Later, the phone rang. Mom answered it, had a very mysterious conversation, and handed the phone to Susannah with a huge smile. Susannah’s heart jumped. Could it be Dad?
“Hi, Susannah, it’s Kenya’s dad. We have a little surprise for you.”
“Mr. Washington!” Susannah was surprised enough to almost forget her disappointment.
“You and Matt put on sturdy clothes and be ready for us to pick you up in a half hour. All right?”
Mystified, Susannah put on jeans, a T-shirt, and her hiking boots. Just how sturdy was sturdy? Mom was no help. She just kept smiling, although she did pack two small backpacks with snacks and drinks and recommend they take hats.
To their surprise, the van that pulled up a half hour later said “Lilies of the Field” on the side. That was the Pattersons’ flower delivery van! Mr. Patterson put his head out the driver’s window. “Hi, you two! Glad you’re ready. Hop in!”
The side door opened and they climbed into a van full to the windows with people—Kenya, Mike, Solly, Mr. El-charif, Mr. Washington . . . Susannah gaped at them.
“It’s Dad’s Day!” Kenya exclaimed.
“Dad’s Day! What’s that?” Susannah looked puzzled.
“We made it up. All the dads and all the primary kids are going for a hike at the lake. And maybe boating too!” Kenya was bouncing, as usual. Susannah had a hard time keeping up with her. “We’re going to do it every week, but we wanted to have the very first one on your birthday.”
“But why? I don’t get it.”
Solly leaned toward her. “It was the best birthday present we could think of. We’re going to share our dads with you—your little brothers too—from now on.”
And all three dads hugged Susannah and Matt.
Susannah pressed her face into Mr. Washington’s warm shoulder. “Thanks, God,” she whispered.