I stood in the grocery store staring at the dairy display. A little old man picked through the cheeses. His hands shook as he picked up a block of cheddar. I turned and looked at him. The color drained from his face as a cough wracked his body. I shivered as I wondered if he would collapse in front of me. He looked like death warmed over. The hacking subsided as he spoke to someone behind me. “Is this the right kind?”
I grabbed the railing as my knees started to buckle. I blinked my eyes and slowly realize that the familiar voice of my father did indeed come from the mouth of the pathetic man next to me. He looked right through me as if he didn't know me.
My mind flashed back to ten years prior when my mom died. The pain felt as intense as the day she left me. My father walked past me as if he didn't know me. I watched him hunch his shoulders and his body seemed to shrivel up as his current wife yanked the cheese out of his hand.
Her shrill voice sent shocks down my spine. “You idiot, didn't you check the expiration date? It shouldn't even be on the shelf.” She reached over and slapped his head.
I stepped between her and reached for her hand. She sneered as she eyed me while slapping my father again. “Stop me, I dare you. Lay one hand on me and I’ll call the cops. Your father will back me up. He chose me over you years ago.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as my father nodded his agreement. She turned around one last time and hissed vile words at me. I nearly crumpled to the floor.
My eyes drifted down as she threw the package of cheese at me. Bending over, I scooped it up and read the words, "Best if used by August 24.” How ironic that the cheese expired the same exact day that Mom had. I wondered if that was when Dad stopped loving me. I didn't even know this man; he was like a stranger. Even though he stood mere feet away from me, for some reason the man who came to my school plays, and taught me to ride my bike didn't exist anymore.
As I watched them walk away, I burst into tears. Glancing around, I noticed a small crowd had gathered to watch the spectacle. I felt my cheeks grow hot as I tried to wipe the tears away. Turning my attention to my groceries, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Swallowing my pride, I lifted my head and saw Pastor Jay standing in front of me.
He smiled gently. “I don’t know why some people make the choices they do. You've tried again and again to reach out to him, only to have him push you away. Personally, I don’t understand how a man could choose a woman over his own children and grandkids. It’s his loss.” He hesitated a minute and then reached out and took the cheese from my hand. “One thing you must remember is you’re not a hunk of cheese. You don’t ever turn rancid in God’s eyes, no matter what. Though it may feel like your earthly father doesn't love you anymore, remember you have a Heavenly Father who will always love you.”
I lifted my head and attempted a smile. “I guess the least I can do is pray for Dad.” Swallowing hard, I grimaced before adding, “And for her, too.”
Patting my shoulder, Pastor Jay said, “No, dear, praying is the most you can do, not the least.”
Perhaps Dad will come to his senses...someday. I bowed my head, right in the store, and prayed. “Dear Jesus, please watch over my father, and keep him safe. Open his eyes so that he might see the truth. Grant me the wisdom to know how to handle this situation. And bless what’s-her-name. Amen.”
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