Roy Exum: Three Words & A Kiss

Tuesday, November 6, 2012 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

A little girl once asked the late Walt Disney if he still drew Mickey Mouse cartoons. He laughed and told her that now his empire had gotten so huge, he no longer had time. “Well, do you pick out the movies you make?” she asked and again he laughed, shaking his head “no.” She asked him more questions, getting a negative response each time, so finally she put her little hands on her hips and demanded, “Then tell me what you do!”

The fabled Mr. Disney pulled her into his lap and told her he would tell her only if it would be a secret. The girl agreed and he whispered, “I go from one project to another all the time. I’m like a little bumble bee, taking pollen from one flower to the next. That’s the way you have a pretty garden!”

In the spirit of taking pollen from one flower to another, I want to be a bumble bee in passing along a touching story my Texas pal, Sandy Pohfal, just shared with me. It comes from a very gifted pastor in Searcy, Ark., David Mathews, who serves the Downtown Church of Christ, confirmed to Sandy the story is very true and that he first wrote it in 2001. I was deeply moved by it and I hope you will be, too.

* * *


By David Mathews

My parents had the perfect marriage, or so I thought. But one day in the 60's changed that thinking. It was 1963. The Dodgers won the World Series over the hated Yankees. My Texas Longhorns were 11-0 and beat Roger Staubach and Navy in the Cotton Bowl, and were crowned the national champions. Life was pretty good for a 13 year old living in Texas.

Then that fateful night arrived. The day innocence was shattered - the moment in history when I discovered fairy tales were exactly that - fairy tales. It was the night an appalling truth crashed upon me. Mom and dad did not have the perfect marriage. In fact mom and dad hated each other.

I do not recall what they argued about that night. But I remember enough to know that I wish I had never been born. And the fighting intensified as the weeks went by. And finally, Dad moved out. Writing this, I wonder if parents really comprehend the impact that those words - "dad moved out" - have on a child, even a child of 13?

Why? Why can't they just love each other the way I love them both? Why can't they forgive, forget, and start over? And why is God doing this to me? Why doesn't the hurt go away? And why can't my daddy live with us? Parents at times forget how bad kids can hurt. But sometimes parents remember. It was a Sunday. Dad called.

"You guys want to play golf?" What a dumb question!

Dad, don't you realize that all I want to do is to be with you? Ever since you moved out, life has taken a tumble. I have pimples, I'm fat, and all the girls laugh at me. I have one friend in the entire world, and he's kind of weird, too. I don't care about my grades, yet I do care. I miss you dad. I'll do anything with you.

Sure, Dad, we'll play golf with you - my brother, sister and I. And so the four of us played, but didn't talk much. But darkness came much too soon, and as much as I dreaded it, we were headed home.

"Thanks for taking us dad. Do you have to go so soon? Please stay a few minutes. Mom is not home. You can leave when she gets here. Please dad."

So he stayed. We drank ice tea. But mostly we sat, dreading the coming separation. And mom walked through the door.

To understand the impact of that night, a few painful facts need to be known. They had been living apart for a few months, but had been separated for years. They had not kissed, or hugged, or held hands, or slept in the same bed for years. They had not, at least to my knowledge, used the word 'love' to each other since I could remember.

Whether she knew it or not, Mom was about to give my sister, my brother, and me the greatest gift imaginable. It was 10:00pm when she came in. She announced that she was going to bed.

"Goodnight, Ann. I love you." And she kissed my sister on the cheek. "Goodnight Richard. I love you." And she kissed my brother on the cheek. "Goodnight David. I love you." And she kissed me on the cheek.

And she paused. We sensed she was not yet through with the goodnights. But there was only one person left in the room. He was sitting in a big chair to my left. And though it has been 35 years since that night, I still can see his face, and hers.

She walked over to him. Without a word, and with compassion and love and tenderness like I had never seen before, she kissed her husband, our daddy, on the cheek.

"I love you, Tom."

And she left the room. Dad said goodnight to us and left. No one mentioned the miracle we had experienced. The next day, dad came home to stay. And for 27 years, they held hands, and hugged, and kissed, and loved each other with the love of the ages.

And why? Because one woman decided to love, and forgive, and forget - decided to start all over. Because one woman saw the hurt and the pain three children were going through. And because one man decided to accept that unconditional love and to give it back.

Years later, mom had breast cancer. They were both old by then. I came into the hospital room after traveling all day to get there. As I walked into the room, there was dad sitting in a big chair to my left. He was holding his bride's hand, and stroking her hair. And my mind raced back to that fateful night, when love was reborn.

One night, one kiss, three words.

Thanks for the gift, mom and dad. I love you.

* * *

Since this story was written, David’s father has passed away but his mother still lives in Houston. David, who now has four children of his own, has a book that will soon to be published and the story you just read will be included. I’ll make sure to let you know how to get a copy.

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