A dining room chair scrapes along the linoleum floor as its scooted to make room. Taking her place at the dining table the girl surveys the night’s meal. Thrown together in haste, quick elements that taste mediocre and yet are filled with love. Served with an extra helping of frustration and angst from a teenage girl.
This night is just like the others. A rushed dinner. Several courses of frozen vegetables, prepared meat from Costco and a green salad tossed with half vinegar, half blue cheese dressing. But there is always avocado, at least there’s that.
Three glasses. Three plates. Three napkins. Three sets of silverware.
The table is set, not complete til the wine and 7-up are placed. Dad at one end, mom in the middle, and me (the teenage girl) on the other. Just us three and the nightly family time around the table.
“Why do we have to eat at the table every night? Why can’t we be like other families and eat in the living room? Chill in front of the TV together and forgo the table setting, cleaning, dishwashing, and lengthy chores that follow every ‘painful’ dinner?” are the thoughts that filled my adolescent mind.
Every night the ritual of this ‘forced’ communion.
I’d rather been alone, independent in my cave. Separate and isolated, doing what I want, when I want, without the forced questions about my day, emotions, events, classes, life.
All short sighted teenage thoughts, a perspective naturally inhibited by the just as short experience of my 13 years on earth.
“Painful”, as if family time is a chore and one I was ‘subjected’ to on a daily basis.
Scooting my chair back I take my seat. Grace is said and the food served.
“Move the 7-up. Move the flowers. I want to see my daughter.”
“Ugh Dad, the bottles see-through.”
“Colleen, move it, please.”
Bottles are scooted aside, flowers placed on the mantle, and a clear line of sight created from his end of the table to mine.
“I want to look at my beautiful daughter.”
It’s inescapable. His gaze lifts to catch brown eyes that mirror his. I squirm a little under their intensity, awkward at the onslaught of affection that always pours from the opposite end of the table.
How heavy the gaze of a Father. How intense the love that pours forth from a loving Dad. It stretches across the table, reaching, pursuing, not stopping till my eyes meet his.
A Fathers love. A love like this…
It pushes aside anything that might hinder its gaze, creating the shortest path between Love and the beloved. So, what is valued is seen, and WHO is seen KNOWS whose gaze is caught.
It places life in order so what is important is in front and what hinders is pushed aside. Love like this is intentional in pursuit, direct in its intentions and beautiful in its expression.
A wide smile forms at His end of the table.
“There. Thats better”
Memories of our nightly dinners escape me. The exact number is vast, repetitive in occurrence but filled with conversations that allude me now.
But his brown eyes on mine…
His smile beaming affection across the table.
The gaze of my loving father has forever marked me. Instilling security, confidence and watering my grieving heart with fresh comfort.
It has settled into the fabric of my soul, changing me even in memory.