I have discovered a profound and noteworthy fact. When girls hit high school age, fathers often hit bottom on daughters’ priority lists. It’s not that we stop loving our fathers; it’s that we have more important male individuals on our minds. Unfortunately, dad is sometimes forgotten for a while.

I was no exception to this phenomenon. During my senior year of high school, I met, dated, and was totally devoted to Mr. Wonderful. We attended most of the dances and other major school events together. But the summer after we graduated, Mike hit me with speech number 36. You know, the one that goes something like “We should date other people more often, but we can still be friends.”

I suppose this was Mike’s way of cutting the ties that bind and branching out a bit. After all, Mr. Wonderful should not hide his light under a bushel. He simply must sacrifice and share his wonderfulness with others. I know I sound bitter, but you see, the decision to part was one-sided (his), and the breakup shattered my little world. I cried my eyes into red puffiness.

Now parents are very perceptive people. Somehow they saw right through my heroic effort to carry on. (Maybe my chin dragging on the ground gave me away.)

“Is there anything wrong, dear?”

“No,” was my typical teenage answer.

Teenagers usually say no. They could be wounded and near death, and when you ask if anything is wrong, they will say no. Persistently and patiently, my parents got to the root of the problem.

They were reassuring and loving as they expressed their regret. Looking back now, I realize they were probably very happy, but they had the good sense to act woeful. My mother said something about these things happening to almost everyone at some time in their lives. She also said I would live through it. Dad added the old favorite, “Time heals all wounds.”

Now I knew all of this. I had said the same thing to girlfriends going through this same tragedy. But none of that lessens the pain at the time.

I went to work the next day feeling tired and dejected, and I tried to convince myself that I didn’t care. And every time the telephone rang, I pounced on it, hoping it would be Mike.

Around two that afternoon, a man in a uniform came up to the desk where I was working.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“Are you Carol?” he said as he thumped a bouquet of beautiful flowers on the desk.

Oh, Mike, you’ve come to your senses, I thought as I grabbed the enclosed card and ripped it open.

“Can I be your new friend? Love, Dad.”

I will never forget the effect those simple words had on me. Each time I read that card, I felt love. My heart was full with the knowledge that my father loved me. He laughed and cried, hurt and rejoiced right along with me. He was concerned and interested in my life. But I had been too wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of my high school existence to include him, and that was my loss. My father climbed to the top of my priority list that day.

Just as our earthly fathers should not be excluded from our successes and failures, so it is with our Father in Heaven. I know that he loves us and wishes to be part of our lives. He feels pain when we hurt, and he rejoices in our happiness, just as our earthly fathers do. We cannot neglect to communicate with him. Through prayer, we can report our accomplishments and temporary failures. He will give us his guidance and love, just as our earthly fathers do, if we will but include him in our lives.

Photography by Philip Shurtleff