In honor of Father’s Day, I tell this story on Joel with love and laughter.
When I was in middle school, my mother forgot to pick me up from school. Normally, I rode the bus but on this day I had an orthodontic appointment right after school and the plan was for her to pick me up. But, as the last buses pulled out and no other car riders were left but me, it became apparent she forgot me. I had to use a pay phone to call her and to this day I remember the surprised “Oh!” she said when I called her at home. How could you forget your child? I mean, really!?
Fast forward years later to when Joel and I were the weary and exhausted parents of three children under the age of three. We hadn’t seen a whole night’s sleep in almost three years and a routine, any routine, was key to keeping things on track.
One Sunday morning when Sarah Grace was about ten months old and the boys were thirty months old, I stayed home from church with Sarah Grace because she had some minor, but contagious, illness. And, instead of the boys, who were well, staying home and being underfoot, Joel took them with him to church.
Now normally on Sunday mornings I would be the one to take all three to the nursery and to retrieve them after church and herd the twin toddler boys and carry Sarah Grace to the car in the parking lot where Joel would meet us after service. But, on this morning Joel was on his own.
About 12:15, the nursery volunteer called our home and asked if I knew where Joel was. Confused, I responded he’s at church. She said, no, he isn’t here. I said, well, how can that be? She said “We have the boys in the nursery and he is not here. His car isn’t in the parking lot either.” Not to worry. I assured her I would call him on his cell phone and he must be there somewhere.
I called his cell phone. No answer. I called it again. No answer. And again. And again. My messages on his voicemail were lost their sweetness with each successive message. I will not repeat my thoughts nor messages here as I would have to edit them because they would certainly be unbecoming for a pastor’s wife to commit to print.
At 12:30 the nursery volunteer called again. Embarrassed, I had to say that I didn’t know where he was and he wasn’t answering his cell phone. Same process of calls and no answer. At 12:45 the nursery volunteer called again and I said just hang on, I am on my way to the church. We lived only five miles or so from the church.
But, I had to hurriedly dress myself and Sarah Grace because we still had on our jammies for the sick day. It was now 1 p.m. I raised the garage door and with Sarah Grace on my hip and car keys in hand, Joel just at that exact moment rolled into the driveway. My jaw was set and my eyes and eyebrows were communicating oh boy you are in trouble. Joel, though, disregarded the warning signs. He rolled down his window and with head cocked to the side said “WHAT?” in a challenging and slightly mocking sarcastic tone. (What? Oh, I will tell you WHAT and give you WHAT FOR.)
But, I coolly said only “Where are the boys?” as I arched only one eyebrow to its maximum height.
“OH!” And, in one simultaneous breath and motion, he threw the Suburban in reverse and roared out of the driveway without any further conversation. Yes, THAT’S WHAT big guy.
And, now the boys love to hear the story of the day Daddy left them at church.