My Grade 5 teacher picked on me, encouraged my friends to turn away from my leadership, and even accused me of cheating when I continued to excel in school. I started to hate school. My older sister, only 2.5 years my elder, refused to share a room with me and so I was put in a room with my baby sister, five years my junior. My little sister coughed, wheezed and snored all night because she suffered from terrible allergies, and I couldn’t sleep because of those noises. This lack of sleep exacerbated stress at school in that already horrible Grade 5 year.
Nightly, once everyone in the house was asleep, I’d take my blanket from my bed and creep into the living-room to sleep. One night, my dad found me there and nudged me awake.
“Come on, hen. Back tae yer bed.”
Taking my hand, he escorted me to my room where the wheezing, snoring and coughing of my sleeping sister prevailed.
“It’s her allergies, Dad,” I sobbed. “I can’t sleep.” I cried in frustration and was shocked to see that my dad too had tears in his eyes.
“Ye know yer th’ apple o’ ma eye, don’t ye?” my father said, patting my hand.
His lower lip quivered, and he looked away from me discomfited by this rare show of emotion. I stared at my dad’s handsome face. I hadn’t known that. How could I? He never said it or even told me that he loved me. I felt deeply loved by my dad in that moment.
I didn’t know then, as a child, that the phrase ‘apple of my eye’ refers to something or someone that one cherishes above all others. It appears in the Bible on at least four occasions. “Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 17:8). “For… he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye’” (Zechariah 2:8). “He guarded him as the pupil of His eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10). “Keep…my teaching as the apple of your eye” (Proverbs 7:2).
My dad and I fought when I was a teen. My dad saw an angry, rebellious teen take the place of his beloved daughter. I went from being a real Daddy’s girl to being a shutdown teen. He never understood why. When I was late for curfew in high school or when it was obvious to him that I’d been out partying as a teen, he’d brutally strike me the moment I walked through the door. There was anger between us for years.
The night my father died, I was writing the law school entrance exam at the University of Toronto. Inexplicably, I suddenly felt surrounded by my father’s love the way I had that night he told me that I was the apple of his eye. I felt that he could see me and was proud of me. I didn’t yet know that he’d passed, but I felt his presence. He was there with me and I felt his love.
Once I confided to my dad that I couldn’t sleep in that room with my younger sister, my dad made me a bedroom in the basement. I chose lavender floral wallpaper and a lilac carpet to finish it off, and it became my haven, somewhere I had peace and quiet.
My APPLEOFEYE license plate is for my earthly dad but also for my Heavenly Father; I’m the cherished daughter of two beloved kings.