Dear Daddy

by Gary Smalley and John Trent

Largely unused in marriages, homes, friendships, and businesses is a tool called emotional word pictures that can supercharge communication and change lives. This concept is as old as ancient kings but so timeless that it has been used throughout the ages in every society. It has the capacity to capture people’s attention by simultaneously engaging their thoughts and feelings. Along with its ability to move us to deeper levels of intimacy, it has the staying power to make a lasting impression.

When faced with the breakup of her parents’ marriage, a hurting teenager named Kimberly used the following word picture in this letter to her father:

Dear Daddy, It’s late at night, and I’m sitting in the middle of my bed writing to you. I’ve wanted to talk with you so many times during the past few weeks. But there never seems to be any time when we’re alone.

Dad, I realize you’re dating someone else. And I know you and Mom may never get back together. That’s terribly hard to accept—especially knowing that you may never come back home or be an “everyday” dad to me and Brian again. But I want you at least to understand what’s going on in our lives.

Don’t think that Mom asked me to write this. She didn’t. She doesn’t know I’m writing, and neither does Brian. I just want to share with you what I’ve been thinking.

Dad, I feel like our family has been riding in a nice car for a long time. You know, the kind you always like to have as a company car. It’s the kind that has every extra inside and not a scratch on the outside.

But over the years, the car has developed some problems. It’s smoking a lot, the wheels wobble, and the seat covers are ripped. The car’s been really hard to drive or ride in because of all the shaking and squeaking. But it’s still a great automobile—or at least it could be. With a little work, I know it could run for years.

Since we got the car, Brian and I have been in the backseat while you and Mom have been up front. We feel really secure with you driving and Mom beside you. But last month, Mom was at the wheel.

It was nighttime, and we had just turned the corner near our house. Suddenly, we all looked up and saw another car, out of control, heading straight for us. Mom tried to swerve out of the way, but the other car smashed into us. The impact sent us flying off the road and crashing into a lamppost.

The thing is, Dad, just before we were hit, we could see that you were driving the other car. And we saw something else: Sitting next to you was another woman.

It was such a terrible accident that we were all rushed to the emergency ward. But when we asked where you were, no one knew. We’re still not really sure where you are or if you were hurt or if you need help.

Mom was really hurt. She was thrown into the steering wheel and broke several ribs. One of them punctured her lungs and almost pierced her heart.

When the car wrecked, the back door smashed into Brian. He was covered with cuts from the broken glass, and he shattered his arm, which is now in a cast. But that’s not the worst. He’s still in so much pain and shock that he doesn’t want to talk or play with anyone.

As for me, I was thrown from the car. I was stuck out in the cold for a long time with my right leg broken. As I lay there, I couldn’t move and didn’t know what was wrong with Mom and Brian. I was hurting so much myself that I couldn’t help them.

There have been times since that night when I wondered if any of us would make it. Even though we’re getting a little better, we’re all still in the hospital. The doctors say I’ll need a lot of therapy on my leg, and I know they can help me get better. But I wish it were you who was helping me, instead of them.

The pain is so bad, but what’s even worse is that we all miss you so much. Every day we wait to see if you’re going to visit us in the hospital, and every day you don’t come. I know it’s over. But my heart would explode with joy if somehow I could look up and see you walk into my room.

At night when the hospital is really quiet, they push Brian and me into Mom’s room, and we all talk about you. We talk about how much we loved driving with you and how we wish you were with us now.

Are you all right? Are you hurting from the wreck? Do you need us like we need you? If you need me, I’m here and I love you.

Your daughter, Kimberly


More than two months before writing this letter, Kimberly had watched her father, Steve, walk out of his family’s life with plans to divorce his wife and pursue a relationship with another woman. The heartache that Kimberly, her mother, and her brother felt was indescribable. But the anguish also extended to Steve. Only a few weeks after leaving, he began to second‐guess his decision.

That’s the impact of divorce. It appears to be a solution when in fact it brings only pain and new difficulties. A few days after receiving Kimberly’s letter, Steve appeared on his family’s doorstep and asked to come back. He realized that divorce wasn’t the answer to his family’s problems. Would you ever consider it an answer to yours? Has your marriage ever been on the brink of breaking up? This week, we’re going to take a candid look at the divorce “solution.”

– James C Dobson

Infamy on Ice

by Phil Callaway

My dream as a kid was to be a hockey player. I couldn’t wait for Saturday evenings. After my bath, I would hurry to the living room, sit down next to the big Philco radio, and listen to hockey night in Canada.

Ah, how I loved the roar of the crowd. The tension of overtime. Players’ names that brought visions of grandeur: Gordie Howe, Frank Mahovolich, Bobby Orr, Phil Callaway. It’s true. I imagined the announcer, his voice rushed with excitement: “It’s Callaway, blazing down the ice…splitting the defense…he shoots…he scores! Oh my, I have not seen anything this exciting since the Allies invaded Normandy!”

Certain that hockey was my calling, I pursued my dream with everything I had. Before long I was playing with real teams in real arenas, with a real helmet to protect my really hard head. Our teams were never very good, but that didn’t lessen my enthusiasm. I couldn’t wait to turn professional so I could fly Mom and Dad to the games. I’d buy them front-row seats right behind the players. They could help the coach make important decisions.

In tenth grade we posted our first winning season. It was a milestone year for me. In fact, something occurred that year that changed my dream for good.

It happened like this.

Late March. The championship game. An event of such magnitude in our small town that a crowd of millions, or at least a few hundred, packed our small arena to watch the stars come out. Peering in nervous anticipation through a crack in the locker room door, I had the distinct feeling that this would be my night. The years of stickhandling were about to pay off. Those who had paid the scalpers twenty-five cents would not be disappointed.

But as the game progressed, my dream began to fade. In fact, as the clock ran down to the final minute, the dream had all the makings of a nightmare. We were behind 3–2 as I climbed over the boards. The final buzzer was about to sound. The fat lady was about to sing. We needed a miracle. We needed Phil Callaway.

And so I took a pass from the corner and skillfully rifled the puck past a sprawling goalie. The red light came on. The girls went wild. The game was tied. And I was a hero. I had scored the goal of my dreams.

Only one goal could top it. The overtime goal.

As I sat in the dressing room waiting for the ice to be cleared, I eased open the locker room door for another peek at the crowd. Prepare yourselves, you lucky people. Tonight destiny is on my side. Tonight will be my night. You will remember me for years to come. Last week when I missed the open net, you chanted my name reassuringly:

That’s all right, that’s okay.

We still love you Callaway.

But not tonight. No need for sympathy, thank you.

Only applause. Wild, exuberant, adoring applause.

And, sure enough, about five minutes into overtime I scored the winning goal. It is a moment that is forever available to me on instant replay and sometimes in slow motion. As the puck slid toward the open net, I dove, trying desperately to forge its direction. As the crowd rose to its feet, I swatted the puck across the goal line.

The red light lit.

The girls screamed.

But they were not cheering for me.

I had just scored into my own net.

I don’t remember much that happened after that. In fact, the next number of years are a bit of a blur. I do remember making a beeline for the locker room, where I sat down and threw a white towel over my head. And I recall the comments of my fellow teammates: “Don’t worry about it, Callaway. Anyone coulda done that…if he was totally uncoordinated.”

I pulled the towel around my ears to muffle the laughter. Then I unlaced my skates. And hung them up. For good.

Upon arriving home, I headed straight for my room. A bad case of the flu had kept Dad from the game.

“How did it go?” he asked, standing in the doorway, studying my pale face and knowing part of the answer.

“Aw, Dad,” I said, hanging my head. “I can’t tell you. You’re sick enough.”

Flopping onto my bed, I put my hands behind my head and stared at the stucco ceiling. Dad entered my room and sat beside me, saying nothing.

“Did you ever do something so stupid you wished for all the world you could go back twenty-four hours and start the day again?” I asked.

“Well,” said Dad, “there was the time I shot out Old Man Henderson’s headlights with my .22…and then there was—”

I interrupted him for the first time in years. Then sat up. Buried my head in my fists. And told him everything: The shock of the crowd. The shame of the dressing room. My play that would live in infamy. I didn’t dare look at his face. The face of a proud dad. A dad who had dreams of his own for his youngest son.

There was silence for a minute. Then Dad put his hand on my knee and did the most unexpected thing in the world.

He began to laugh.

And I couldn’t believe I was doing it…but I joined him.

It was the last thing either of us expected. It was the very best thing.

More than twenty years have passed since the night Dad and I sat on the edge of my bed laughing together. I remember it as the night I determined to skate again. In fact, I’m still skating. I’ve even managed to score a few goals over the years. Into the right net. But no goal will ever be as memorable as that overtime goal.

For several years after I’d wake up in a cold sweat reliving that awful moment, but when I’d remember Dad’s hand on my knee…I’d smile from ear to ear. You see, that was the night I discovered something that makes the heaviest burdens seem a whole lot lighter.

There on my bed, my father gave me a glimpse into the face of my heavenly Father. A face full of compassion, forgiveness, and grace.

A smiling face.

The face of One who laughs with us.

Looking ahead…

Sometimes life gets so bad that there is only one thing left to do: laugh. When your dishwasher floods the kitchen, when you accidentally delete a day’s work on the computer, or when you score the winning goal for the wrong team, you’ll find the situation much easier to handle if you can respond to it with a smile instead of a scream.

As we hurry through our days, it’s easy to let life’s problems and stresses distort our perspective. That may be one of the reasons why God gave us laughter…and sunsets…and ice cream…and music…and children.

The child-raising years are filled with some of life’s biggest challenges, yet they pass by so quickly. Soon, by God’s grace, your family will be together in a new, eternal home—a joyous place called heaven. That knowledge should help you keep the temporary pitfalls of daily life in proper perspective.

– James C Dobson

  • From Night Light For Parents, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

“Infamy on Ice” by Phil Callaway. From Who Put the Skunk in the Trunk? by Phil Callaway (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 1999). Used by permission.

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