Debbie, fifteen, arrived with her caseworker, carrying her possessions in one brown paper bag. She came from the jail because they said they had no room at the Childrens Home. Her smile lit up the room and she settled right in to being part of the family. She shared my room from then on that cold February day.
Debbie's personality brought many friends her way and she even had two boyfriends in succession. She practiced and practiced in our side yard for majorette try outs. She was really happy one day coming home, walking in the door, “That Reverend Hatch is a funny guy.” Somehow my parents found out she had a bag of weed in her sock. They sent it out to be tested and were told it was only oregano. Debbie laughed at that.
Mom tried to instill some lady like character. She was intensely opposed to Debbie smoking. Debbie would say she quit, but then the smell told on her. One Saturday morning, Mom, in anger, sprayed and sprayed perfume all over Debbie, more because she lied than the actual smoking.
We had a great summer. The summer of '72 goes down in my record books. Debbie loved to swim and accompanied me to the pool. My parents took us and Aunt Eleanor and my cousin Elaine to Indiana to see the older sister, Paula. Debbie and Elaine were the same age and I felt stuck between childhood and wanting to be a teen, a little rebellion setting in.
We traveled to the Jersey shore, Wildwood, with my sister and niece, too. We camped and spent the days in the ocean. Debbie dove and swam. One time surfacing, she gasped, “I lost Dominic's ring.” She kept diving and searching for that class ring, but never found it.
August, we felt like family. Dad took us and our two friends to Niagara Falls for a day trip. The trip happened to fall during Hurricane Agnes. She showed her furry all the way north and inland. A truckload of pigs overturned on I-90 in New York state. Our camper van didn't have a radio, so Dad had no idea what he was driving into. We did indoor activities, which was fun, too.
Debbie attended church camp. She came home, “saved.” But then she started acting truly bizarre and rebellious. She ran away in mid August, before school started.
Dad stayed out all night searching for her with the police. Mom and I didn't sleep well, so we were up when Dad stopped in. Wearied, he told how they were all over West Middlesex, and out to Kiwanis Park.
“I was wet up to my knees and half way down my shirt from the grass and my tears.”
Debbie wasn't his natural daughter and she hadn't lived with us long, six months, but that day, I saw Dad loved her wholeheartedly like all of us. I never felt jealous or better. Dad had so much love, we all felt special. He always wanted the best for us and in us. Debbie had to leave our home and we were sad, but everyone advised my parents to be careful for me, as I was eleven.
On Father's Day this year, the ache of missing Dad isn't there as much. He has been gone for twenty six years. I try to live like he did. And Dad lived Christ. That is the best way I came up to describe his life. I remember as a young child, I thought, I see Jesus, when I see Dad. He wasn't above any job at home. He wore an apron and cooked. He ran the sweeper and cleaned. He loved his yard. He painted our three story house using a picnic table and double ladder. Mom almost had a heart attack with every thud. On rainy days, he car pooled the neighborhood kids to school when it was his turn.
Dad knew his Bible because he read and studied it. He never went beyond eleventh grade high school formally. As my husband said today, the Army Air Corp only took the top ten percent. His dad and my dad were both in the Air Corp during WWII. Dad held a responsible job as a sergeant, assisting an officer.
In later years, Dad took a real estate course and passed his test. He could have been a nurse. He had what a nurse needs, great observation skills and gut instinct.
|An Inn in an Indiana State park|
|Dad also took us on day trip to Sea World|
|Seaside Heights, NJ|
I found a page of Scottydog stationery my mother wrote on a year and a half after Dad died, yesterday when I was looking for the picture of him hanging cloth diapers. She talked of her grief when someone you love dies. She wrote how well he took care of her. I turned the page over and she wrote, “God healed me for a purpose.”
Mom remained a widow for eighteen years. A love great and strong held her. She knew he was a wonderful husband and father. I say she made an excellent choice when she was seventeen.
As I remembered the story of Dad searching for Debbie as she watched them, I thought how Christlike he was. Tears wetting his shirt as he wanted to rescue a daughter, hiding in tall grass. And he would have done that, crying for any of his kids or our friends. His heart enlarged with love cared for anyone.