My grade 5 teacher picks on me, encourages my friends to turn away from my leadership, and even accuses me of cheating when I continue to excel in school. I start to hate school. My older sister, only 2.5 years my elder, refuses to share a room with me and so I am put in a room with my baby sister, five years my junior. My little sister coughed, wheezes and snores all night because she suffers from terrible allergies, and I can’t sleep because of those noises. This lack of sleep exacerbates stress at school in that already horrible grade 5 year.
Nightly, once everyone in the house is asleep, I take my blanket from my bed and creep into the living-room to sleep. One night, my dad finds me there and nudges me awake.
“Come on, hen. Back to bed.”
Taking my hand, he escorts me to my room where the wheezing, snoring and coughing of my sleeping sister prevails.
“It’s her allergies, Dad,” I sob. “I can’t sleep.” I cry in frustration and am shocked to see that my dad too has tears in his eyes.
“You know yer the apple of my eye, don’t you?” my father says, patting my hand.
His lower lip quivers, and he looks away from me discomfited by this rare show of emotion. I stare at my dad’s handsome face. I hadn’t known that. How could I? He never says it or even tells me that he loves me. I feel deeply loved by my dad in that moment.
I don’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 fight when I am a teen. My dad sees an angry, rebellious teen take the place of his beloved daughter. I go from being a real Daddy’s girl to being a shutdown teen. He never understands why. When I am late for curfew in high school or when it is obvious to him that I’ve been out partying as a teen, he brutally strikes me the moment I walk through the door. There is anger between us for years.
The night my father dies, I am writing the law school entrance exam at the University of Toronto. Inexplicably, I suddenly feel surrounded by my father’s love the way I had that night he told me that I was the apple of his eye. I feel that he can see me and is proud of me. I don’t yet know that he has passed, but I feel his presence. He is there with me and I feel 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 of our small house on Cantley Crescent. I chose lavender floral wallpaper and a lilac carpet to finish it off, and it became my haven, somewhere I had peace and quiet in that hellish home.
My APLOFI license plate is for my earthly dad but also for my Heavenly Father. I’m the cherished daughter of two kings.