When I was young, our little family lived in a one-bedroom apartment. I slept on the couch in the living room. More than anything else in the world, I wanted to be an athlete. I did everything I was told might help me. While some of the advice I received was questionable, I tried it anyway, just in case it might help. I was advised not to eat chocolate, so I didn’t eat chocolate. I remember being told not to drink soda pop because it would “cut your wind.” I never drank soda pop. I was also told to sleep with the windows wide open to get plenty of fresh air, so all year long I slept with the windows open.

My dad, a steelworker, left home for work very early each day. Every morning he would quietly close the windows I had opened in the living room; then he would tuck the covers around me and stop for a minute. Often, half-dreaming, I would sense my dad standing beside the couch, looking at me. As I pretended to sleep, he would bow his head and quietly pray with all his attention, energy, and focus—for me.

Each morning he would pray that I would have a good day, that I would be safe, that I would learn and prepare for the future. And since he could not be with me until evening, he would pray for the teachers and my friends that I would be with that day.

In junior high and high school, I reached my dream to be an athlete. I played football and baseball. Our football games were usually played on Friday evenings. My father now worked out of town during the week. But each Friday afternoon, he left work and drove six or seven hours to make it to every one of my games. He never arrived in time for the start of the game, but the coaches would leave a sideline pass at the gate for him. I knew that sometime during the first half, I would look up and there he would be on the sideline, watching me. Then after church on Sunday afternoons, he would have to turn around and drive back to work.

At first, I didn’t really understand what my dad was doing those mornings when he prayed for me. But as I got older, I came to sense his love and interest in me and in everything I was doing. It is one of my favorite memories. It wasn’t until years later, after I was married, had children of my own, and would go into their rooms while they were asleep and pray for them, that I understood completely how my father felt about me.

Illustrated by Keith Larson