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IN GOD'S EYES by Candace Carteen,
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Published: 16 years ago

IN GOD'S EYES by Candace Carteen,

by Candace Carteen, Portland, Oregon

By the time I was ten, I was totally ashamed of my father. All my
friends called him names: Quasi-Moto, hunchback, monster, little
Frankenstein, the crooked little man with the crooked little cane.
At first it hurt when they called him those things, but soon I
found myself agreeing with them. He was ugly, and I knew it!

My father was born with something called parastremmatic dwarfism.
The disease made him stop growing when he was about thirteen and
caused his body to twist and turn into a grotesque shape. It wasn't
too bad when he was a kid. I saw pictures of him when he was about
my age. He was a little short but quite good-looking. Even when he
met my mother and married her when he was nineteen, he still looked
pretty normal. He was still short and walked with a slight limp,
but he was able to do just about anything. Mother said, "He even
used to be a great dancer."

Soon after my birth, things started getting worse. Another genetic
disorder took over, and his left foot started turning out, almost
backward. His head and neck shifted over to the right; his neck
became rigid and he had to look over his left shoulder a bit. His
right arm curled in and up, and his index finger almost touched his
elbow. His spine warped to look something like a big, old roller
coaster and it caused his torso to lie sideways instead of straight
up and down like a normal person. His walk became slow, awkward,
and deliberate. He had to almost drag his left foot as he used his
deformed right arm to balance his gait.

I hated to be seen with him. Everyone stared. They seemed to pity
me. I knew he must have done something really bad to have God hate
him that much.

By the time I was seventeen, I was blaming all my problems on my
father. I didn't have the right boyfriends because of him. I didn't
drive the right car because of him. I wasn't pretty enough because
of him. I didn't have the right jobs because of him. I wasn't happy
because of him.

Anything that was wrong with me, or my life, was because of him. If
my father had been good-looking like Jane's father, or successful
like Paul's father, or worldly like Terry's father, I would be
perfect! I knew that for sure.

The night of my senior prom came, and Father had to place one more
nail in my coffin; he had volunteered to be one of the chaperones
at the dance. My heart just sank when he told me. I stormed into my
room, slammed the door, threw myself on the bed, and cried.
"Three more weeks and I'll be out of here!" I screamed into my
pillow. "Three more weeks and I will have graduated and be moving
away to college." I sat up and took a deep breath. "God, please
make my father go away and leave me alone. He keeps sticking his
big nose in everything I do. Just make him disappear, so that I can
have a good time at the dance."

I got dressed, my date picked me up, and we went to the prom.
Father followed in his car behind us. When we arrived, Father
seemed to vanish into the pink chiffon drapes that hung everywhere
in the auditorium. I thanked God that He had heard my prayer. At
least now I could have some fun.

Midway through the dance, Father came out from behind the drapes
and decided to embarrass me again. He started dancing with my
girlfriends. One by one, he took their hand and led them to the
dance floor. He then clumsily moved them in circles as the band
played. Now I tried to vanish into the drapes.

After Jane had danced with him, she headed my way.
Oh, no! I thought. She's going to tell me he stomped on her foot or

"Grace," she called, "you have the greatest father."

My face fell. "What?"

She smiled at me and grabbed my shoulders. "Your father's just the
best. He's funny, kind, and always finds the time to be where you
need him. I wish my father was more like that."

For one of the first times in my life, I couldn't talk. Her words
confused me.

"What do you mean?" I asked her.

Jane looked at me really strangely. "What do you mean, what do I
mean? Your father's wonderful. I remember when we were kids, and
I'd sleep over at your house. He'd always come into your room, sit
down in the chair between the twin beds, and read us a book. I'm
not sure my father can even read," she sighed, and then smiled.
"Thanks for sharing him."

Then, Jane ran off to dance with her boyfriend.

I stood there in silence.

A few minutes later, Paul came to stand beside me.

"He's sure having a lot of fun."

"What? Who? Who is having a lot of fun?" I asked.

"Your father. He's having a ball."

"Yeah. I guess." I didn't know what else to say.

"You know, he's always been there," Paul said. "I remember when you
and I were on the mixed-doubles soccer team. He tried out as the
coach, but he couldn't run up and down the field, remember? So they
picked Jackie's father instead. That didn't stop him. He showed up
for every game and did whatever needed to be done. He was the
team's biggest fan. I think he's the reason we won so many games.
Without him, it just would have been Jackie's father running up and
down the field yelling at us. Your father made it fun. I wish my
father had been able to show up to at least one of our games. He
was always too busy."

Paul's girlfriend came out of the restroom, and he went to her
side, leaving me once again speechless.

My boyfriend came back with two glasses of punch and handed me one.

"Well, what do you think of my father?" I asked out of the blue.

Terry looked surprised. "I like him. I always have."

"Then why did you call him names when we were kids?"

"I don't know. Because he was different, and I was a dumb kid."

"When did you stop calling him names?" I asked, trying to search my
own memory.

Terry didn't even have to think about the answer. "The day he sat
down with me outside by the pool and held me while I cried about my
mother and father's divorce. No one else would let me talk about
it. I was hurting inside, and he could feel it. He cried with me
that day. I thought you knew."

I looked at Terry and a tear rolled down my cheek as long-forgotten
memories started cascading into my consciousness.

When I was three, my puppy got killed by another dog, and my father
was there to hold me and teach me what happens when the pets we
love die. When I was five, my father took me to my first day of
school. I was so scared. So was he. We cried and held each other
that first day. The next day he became teacher's helper. When I was
eight, I just couldn't do math. Father sat down with me night after
night, and we worked on math problems until math became easy for
me. When I was ten, my father bought me a brand-new bike. When it
was stolen, because I didn't lock it up like I was taught to do, my
father gave me jobs to do around the house so I could make enough
money to purchase another one. When I was thirteen and my first
love broke up with me, my father was there to yell at, to blame,
and to cry with. When I was fifteen and I got to be in the honor
society, my father was there to see me get the accolade. Now, when
I was seventeen, he put up with me no matter how nasty I became or
how high my hormones raged.

As I looked at my father dancing gaily with my friends, a big
toothy grin on his face, I suddenly saw him differently. The
handicaps weren't his, they were mine! I had spent a great deal of
my life hating the man who loved me. I had hated the exterior that
I saw, and I had ignored the interior that contained his God-given
heart. I suddenly felt very ashamed.

I asked Terry to take me home, too overcome with feelings to

On graduation day, at my Christian high school, my name was called,
and I stood behind the podium as the valedictorian of my class. As
I looked out over the people in the audience, my gaze rested on my
father in the front row sitting next to my mother. He sat there, in
his one and only, specially made suit, holding my mother's hand and

Overcome with emotions, my prepared speech was to become a landmark
in my life.

"Today I stand here as an honor student, able to graduate with a
4.0 average. Yes, I was in the honor society for three years and
was elected class president for the last two years. I led our
school to championship in the debate club, and yes, I even won a
full scholarship to Kenton State University so that I can continue
to study physics and someday become a college professor.

"What I'm here to tell you today, fellow graduates, is that I
didn't do it alone. God was there, and I had a whole bunch of
friends, teachers, and counselors who helped. Up until three weeks
ago, I thought they were the only ones I would be thanking this
evening. If I had thanked just them, I would have been leaving out
the most important person in my life. My father."

I looked down at my father and at the look of complete shock that
covered his face.

I stepped out from behind the podium and motioned for my father to
join me onstage. He made his way slowly, awkwardly, and
deliberately. He had to drag his left foot up the stairs as he used
his deformed right arm to balance his gait. As he stood next to me
at the podium, I took his small, crippled hand in mine and held it

"Sometimes we only see the silhouette of the people around us," I
said. "For years I was as shallow as the silhouettes I saw. For
almost my entire life, I saw my father as someone to make fun of,
someone to blame, and someone to be ashamed of. He wasn't perfect,
like the fathers my friends had.

"Well, fellow graduates, what I found out three weeks ago is that
while I was envying my friends' fathers, my friends were envying
mine. That realization hit me hard and made me look at who I was
and what I had become. I was brought up to pray to God and hold
high principles for others and myself. What I've done most of my
life is read between the lines of the Good Book so I could justify
my hatred."

Then, I turned to look my father in the face.

"Father, I owe you a big apology. I based my love for you on what I
saw and not what I felt. I forgot to look at the one part of you
that meant the most, the big, big heart God gave you. As I move out
of high school and into life, I want you to know I could not have
had a better father. You were always there for me, and no matter
how badly I hurt you, you still showed up. Thank you!"

I took off my mortar board and placed it on his head, moving the
tassel just so.

"You are the reason I am standing here today. You deserve this
honor, not me."

And as the audience applauded and cried with us, I felt God's light
shining down upon me as I embraced my father more warmly than I
ever had before, tears unashamedly falling down both our faces.

For the first time, I saw my father through God's eyes, and I felt
honored to be seen with him.

From the book:
God Allows U Turns: True Stories of Hope and Healing by Allison Bottke (Editor), Cheryll Hutchings

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