A few weeks ago we arrived at church and, as the first hymn was about to start, I quickly scanned the crowd for a gap big enough for my family. I slid in, and found myself seated next to … Mr. Fancher. Not the real one — he died when I was a little girl. But he bore a striking similarity to the elderly gentleman who used to live next door.
He lived alone, but every day when I got off the school bus from kindergarten, he’d be out working in his garden. He’d lean on his hoe, and intone to me: “Beautiful eyes, she has such beautiful eyes…” I’d drop my book bag and run to his yard, and he’d let me help him pull weeds and pick flowers for my mother. Sometimes he’d go in to the house and bring out a glass of Kool-Aid or a cookie, just to sweeten the day.
My parents invited him to dinner, and soon he became a fixture in our home. We never knew the story of his own family, his own grandchildren. When he passed away, he gave my father his old roll-top desk, where for the next twenty years my father would sit and pay the bills.
So today, when I looked up and found his twin smiling pleasantly up at me, my heart clenched. I never forgot the first man who — other than my own dad — made me feel beautiful. Forty years later, his little song plays in my head and makes me smile.
Happy Father’s Day, Mr. Fancher. Rest in peace.