Written by Lisa Williams
The main complaint Crystal had about her father was that he was so closed mouthed about answers to questions she asked about her mother. Her Dad’s lack of discussion led her mind to wonder to many different scenarios as to what must have happened to her mom.
Did her mother’s parents disapprove of her relationship with her father? Did she really die in a car accident? Could her parents have had such a horrific argument that her mother up and left her father? As these thoughts swirled in Crystal’s mind, she began to feel nauseated. She was twelve years old now and wanted to know the truth about her mother. She realized her father held the answers.
“Daddy, wake up!” Crystal stated with authority. “It’s 11 am and you told me to wake you up.”
“Ok, ok”, Sam said “I’m awake. Did you have breakfast?”
Sheepishly Crystal replied, “No.”
“And why not?” her father asked.
“I’m sick to my stomach and don’t want to eat anything”.
“You know sometimes you might feel sick because you do need to eat something. Let’s make some breakfast together before I need to leave to catch my flight for my meeting. Ok?”
“You make the toast, and I will scramble us some eggs.”
Just as they sat down at the kitchen table to eat, there was a knock on the front door.
“I’ll answer it Dad”. Crystal ran to the door.
“Hi Crystal”, Annie said. “How are you?”
“Fine. Dad and I were just having breakfast.”
Sam came around the corner and spied Annie. “Hi Annie, thanks for coming over on such short notice. Are you hungry? Would you like some breakfast? I can make some more eggs.”
“No”, she said. “I ate a little while ago. Can we talk about your itinerary as you eat? I understand you are going to be away for a few days?”
“Yes, sure. I will be travelling to LA this afternoon and will return on Wednesday, next week. I was hoping you could stay with Crystal until I return.”
“Sure, that’s the plan. My suitcase is in my car.”
“Crystal, Daddy has to go out of town for a few days to a particularly important meeting. Aunt Annie is going to stay with you while I am gone. I would like you to behave for her. Ok?”
“Ok, can we watch movies Annie?”
“Yes, we can.”
Sweat beaded up on Sam’s forehead as he sprinted from the airport parking garage, through the airplane terminal to gate 12F for his trip to LA. His road trip to airport had taken longer than expected due to construction and traffic delays. Yet, he was determined not to miss his plane. Sam’s man bun had become undone during the run and he appeared very dis-shelved.
At the gate, the flight attendant asked for his ticket. He was visibly shaken as he reached into his leather bomber jacket for his ticket. He was obviously nervous about flying and only did so when he absolutely had to. It had been over 13 years since he left his home in LA with his newly married wife, Susan, to move to Atlanta for his new job in the tech industry.
Sam tried to straighten himself up, fixing his bun and tucking his shirt in his faded blue jeans, as he walked toward the entrance of the plane. Upon boarding, the steward asked him for his briefcase. The steward directed him to his seat in the cabin and placed his briefcase in the overhead bin.
Finally, Sam thought, he might be able to take a nap on his way to LA. He began thinking about his daughter and how fast she seemed to be growing up. He was flying to meet her grandparents, which he hadn’t seen since his wedding to their daughter.
Sam was trying to decide if this was the right time to introduce them into Crystal’s life. For several years, they blamed him for their daughter’s death. They accused him of not getting Susan to the hospital fast enough to save her life during Crystal’s birth. He knew he did the best he could at the time, but he continued to struggle with the guilt of her death.
Upon arriving in LA, as he was ready to depart the plane’s cabin, he reached into the overhead bin and grabbed a briefcase.
He walked to the taxi terminal, sat down to open his briefcase to get his wallet and cell phone. He instantly realized he had picked up the wrong briefcase. The case would not open. Panic began to set in as he tried to think about what to do next.
Sam walked rapidly to the baggage claim window and explained to the attendant that he had accidently picked up the wrong briefcase from the planes overhead bin.
“Ok,” the attendant said with a smile. Things could be worse. Now, let’s see what your flight number was?”
Sam told him the number.
“I’m not sure how long it will take to find your briefcase. It might be a couple of days. Is there anyone here in LA you might be able to call to help you? You can use my phone if you like.”
Sam thought for a moment about all the negative repercussions if he called Crystal’s grandparents. It would make him look like a bad father, someone who is unorganized, and perhaps not capable of taking care of his 12-year-old girl. It would only confirm their accusations that he was not able to take care of his newly married wife years ago.
“Sir” the attendant exclaimed loudly’ “What do you want to do? I have others waiting in line behind you.”
Sam decided he must put the worrisome thoughts aside and call them for help. “Yes,” he answered, “can I use your phone?”
When Susan’s parents arrived at the airport baggage terminal, her mother, Carol ran over to Sam and blurted out, “We are so sorry Sam for blaming you. It wasn’t right. We were just so stricken with grief over Susan’s passing. We truly would like to be involved in our granddaughter’s life and yours if you will permit it.”
“Of course,”, said Sam as he was experiencing the power of God’s forgiving Grace. “I’ve prayed for this moment and I believe that Crystal would like to get to know you.” It was at this moment, by this simple act of forgiveness, Sam knew all their lives would be changed forever.
At the beginning of this day, Sam had no idea that losing his briefcase, with his valued personal belongings, would lead to such communication with Susan’s parents. He knew he had made the right decision. His wife Susan would have wanted her parents involved in Crystal’s life.
Sam knew Carol and Mike Nelson about a year prior to his marriage to Susan, their only daughter. Susan was 25 years old when she and Sam married.
As Sam, Carol and Mike exited the airport terminal, Mike inquired, “Sam ,why don’t you stay with us while you are in town?” Carol is an Elementary School Teacher and Mike drives a Taxi, which he owns.
Carol added, “We would really like to spend some time with you.”
Sam agreed as he placed his bag into the trunk of their gray Subaru Outback. He would much rather stay at their house than get a hotel room. The ride from the airport to Carol and Mike’s house was going to be about an hour drive. “Do you all mind”, Sam said, “if I take a little nap on the way to your house? I am really exhausted.”
In unison, Carol and Mike replied, “Go ahead. No problem.”
It was around 10 pm when they arrived at the Nelson’s home. Carol asked, “Is anyone hungry? I can make some sandwiches.”
Sam replied, “Thanks but, I am really tired, jet lag, I think. Do you mind if I go to bed now and we talk in the morning?”
Carol and Mike looked at each other, as they thought Sam might be anxious to talk to them about Crystal. Mike said, “Let me show you to the guest room”.
The next morning, around 9 am, Sam awoke to the smell of bacon and maple syrup. He put on his sweatpants and a clean tee shirt and walked downstairs to breakfast.
His senses were correct. There was Carol preparing bacon, pancakes, warm maple syrup and fried eggs. “Would you like a cup of coffee?” Carol asked.
“Sure would. Thanks for letting me go to bed last night. I was really tuckered out. Where’s Mike?”
“Oh, he had an early taxi call and most likely will not be back home before 6 pm. I hope you don’t mind spending the day with me?”
“No, my pleasure.”
“Great! How would you like your eggs prepared?”
Carol placed the food on the table, which was already set for breakfast.
“Thank you for such a fine and unexpected meal,” Sam muttered while munching on a piece of bacon, “Delish!”
“You are more than welcome. I thought a hearty breakfast was needed this morning. Now, I have a question for you?”
“Yes, go ahead.”
“How would you feel about Mike and I coming to visit you and Crystal around Christmas this year? We really want to get to know our granddaughter and you. It has been so long since Susan’s passing. We feel we have missed so much of Crystal’s life because of our foolishness.” Carol began to cry.
Sam put his arm around her. “I understand. You know both Crystal and I need you and Mike in our lives. We would love to have you and Mike come to our house and stay with us if you like. Christmas time would be wonderful. Christmas is Crystal’s favorite time of the year.”
After breakfast, Sam helped Carol with the dishes. This was a routine chore he always completed with Crystal after their meals.
“Now that the dishes are done, I have something I would like to show you”, Carol expressed with a glee in her voice. “Let’s sit on the sofa.”
Sam stretched, and walked over to the large, cushioned sofa. “You could sleep on this, if you wanted to,” he said to Carol.
“Sure could. That’s why Mike and bought it. You know in case we had extra guests to accommodate.”
Carol went over to the bookcase, picked out a large photo album and brought it back with her to the sofa. “Let me see,” she said as she thumbed through the pages. “Here’s a photo I bet you haven’t seen. This is when Susan graduated from Marine Corps Boot Camp at Parris Island, 2000. We were so proud of her.”
“Wow! She was so skinny. She told me some stories about her time in the Marines. I understand she had a top-secret crypto clearance and worked at Headquarters Company, Camp Pendleton, most of her tour of duty.”
“That is true. It was a bit unusual for a person to spend their entire service at one duty station. Susan told us it was because the officer she reported to really liked the job she was doing and that he knew he could depend on her in a crisis. Susan received several promotions during that time. Plus, she wasn’t to awfully far from home, she would visit us every so many months.”
“So how old was she when she went into the Marines?”
“She had just turned 18 summer of 2000, when she enlisted. Mike really struggled with the fact that she wanted to join the Marines. He felt since he didn’t have any sons that he wouldn’t have to worry about his children getting killed a war. You know, he had a brother who served in the Marines and was killed in Vietnam, back in 1970.”
“Really, I didn’t know about Mike’s brother. I remember Susan shared with me that she served for six years, mostly at Camp Pendleton.”
“That’s right! She loved her job. You know, it was while she was in the Marines that she went back to school and earned her Bachelor and Master’s degrees in computer science.”
“Right. She loved the whole tech industry. She especially like computer programming and coding concepts. You know, you might remember that it was at college in 2006, where we met, when we were both working on our Master’s degrees in computer science.”
“Yes, I remember. You both were so smart and very energetic about your studies. I recall Susan telling us you spent hours together preparing theories for dissertations.”
“We sure did. That’s how I really got to know her and when we fell in love. It was a glorious experience. I loved her so much. I miss her so much.” Sam began to cry.
Carol leaned over and held Sam for several minutes while he was crying.
“I try to stay so strong for Crystal, but sometimes it is just more than I can bare.”
“I know, son. Is it ok if I call you son?”
“Sure. I think I am going to go and take a shower now.
While Sam was in the shower, a male courier from the airline came to the door and dropped off Sam’s briefcase.
After dinner, that evening Carol remembered that Sam’s briefcase had arrived and offered it to him.
Sam thumbed the combination lock and open the briefcase slowly. He removed his cell phone and wallet. Sam beamed as he saw the very neatly wrapped package in brown paper. He had spent quite a bit of time preparing the special gift for Carol and Mike. He was so glad his briefcase had been found.
Sam carefully lifted the gift from his briefcase and placed it on the dining room table. With a big smile he, “I made this for the both of you.”
Mike said, “Now Sam a gift wasn’t necessary.”
“Yes, it was.” Sam said. “It is something that will change your lives forever.”
Carol unwrapped the package. As she began to look thru the several layers of wood and glass frames, she realized there were two pictures for every year of Crystal’s life. “Oh my,” with a quiver in her voice, “Look Mike, it is our grandbaby!” “We thank you so much for sharing Sam!”
“You are very welcome!” Sam glanced at his watch and asked, “Mike are you able to give me a ride to the airport tonight? I planned for the “red-eye” flight back to Atlanta.”
It was around 5 am when Sam walked in the door of his house in Atlanta. He sat down his luggage a briefcase in the living room. He walked up the steps to Crystal’s room, went in and carefully pulled up the covers on her so as not to wake her. He went to his own room and immediately went to bed.
“Daddy, Daddy get up. You’re home and I am so happy to see you,” Crystal said loudly as she shook her Dad awake. “It’s noon and Auntie Anne needs to leave for a business meeting.”
“Ok honey. I’m getting up. I will meet you and Auntie Anne downstairs in a minute.” Sam hurriedly put on his clothes and went downstairs.
“Hi Anne. Thank you for taking care of Crystal for me.”
“You are welcome Sam. Can I call you later? I have a meeting I need to get to.”
“Sure” Anne departed.
“Crystal, honey, I want to speak with you about something. Come over and sit next to me on the sofa.”
Sam spoke slowly. He was extremely shameful for the lies he had told his little girl about her mother. At the time, he had thought it was the right thing to do. He did not want Crystal blaming herself for her mother’s death. He began praying to God for the courage to speak the truth with love so Crystal could understand the “why” of it all. “Crystal, I need to apologize to you for telling you a little white lie.”
“What white lie?” Crystal hesitated as she spoke.
Sam was embarrassed with himself as he answered, “That you mother had left us right after you were born, and I did not know why she left. This is not true.” He was trying to choose his works carefully because he did not want to send the wrong message to his daughter. He did not want her to feel like she could not trust him anymore.
“I should have never told you that first lie. You were around six years old at the time. The more you asked me about your Mom, the more the lie began to take on a life of its own. The worst happen, the lie kept snowballing into something bigger. Like, when I told you that I did not know where your Mom went to live or why she left us. None of this is true. I am so sorry, so sorry I lied to you.”
Crystal just sat and starred at her father for a moment and asked, “What really happened, Daddy? I want to know the truth.”
Sam began, “I want you to know your mother loved you so much! She held you when you were born and named you Crystal. You were so precious. You still are. When you were about to be born, I rushed your mother to the VA Hospital in Atlanta. The Doctors and Nurses had to do a special procedure to deliver you. Your mother lost a lot of blood during the procedure. Afterwards, they did their best to save her. Your grandparents were enroute from LA to be there when you were born, but before Carol and Mike arrived in Atlanta, your mother passed away.”
Tears began running down both Crystal and her father’s cheeks. Sam held Crystal while she sobbed.
“You know, your mother loved you so much and she will be forever in your heart.”
He took out his white, cotton handkerchief and began wiping her tears as he told her, “I love you honey more than you will ever know, and I am so sorry I lied to you. I will never do that again. I am asking you now to forgive me.”
“I forgive you daddy. I love you. Where is Mom buried?”
“Not too far from here. I go to the cemetery often on my way home from work. Would you like to visit today?”
When they arrived at the cemetery, Sam remarked to Crystal what a clear day it was. No smog in the air. The day felt fresh and new. He showed his daughter her mothers’ tombstone which read, “In loving memory of Susan, wife and mother. God loaned her to us for a short time. We will love her for a forever.”
They both sat down on a nearby bench and prayed quietly. After a while, Sam broke the silence by saying, “When I went to California, I visited with Carol and Mike your grandparents. How would you feel if they came to visit us for a while this Christmas?”
“I would like that a lot,” Crystal answered.