Happy Father’s Day, Dads! I’ve always seen Father’s Day as a day to honor not just our dads, but to honor those who have loved in a fatherly way. Here is a short story about a dad who was fatherly toward others. See you on the next page!—David Telbat.
A Father’s Calling
by D.I. Telbat
Ryan Gaultridge, the father of two boys, glanced at the clock. It was nearly midnight, and he hadn’t slept a wink. His wife, Megan, slept soundly next to him, unaware that the evening news story of the flooding south of their town had immensely impacted his heart. All those families without homes, without clothes, without food and water!
Shutting his eyes, he tried to will himself to sleep. After all, tomorrow was Father’s Day, and the family of four had big plans to go to the ball park. Ryan’s boys had recommended the batting cages, and for their sake, he had relented. But now, all that flashed before his eyelids was the situation to the south. It was a three-hour drive to the flood zone. Families needing shelter would be crammed together into anything available—whether it was comfortable or not. The water could take weeks to subside. So where would those families go? Everyone would need special care. His own household could care for one family.
“Meg?” He nudged her shoulder. “Meg, I have to go do something. Megan, can you hear me? There’s something I need to do. Come on. You want to go?”
“Do I look like I want to go?” Megan rolled over. “You don’t need me. It’s the middle of the night, Ryan. Go do whatever you’re going to do.”
Ryan eased back, thought about pressing the issue, then let it go. She was right. This was something God had given him to do. Soon enough, Megan would be playing her part. He pulled on his clothes and heavy weather gear, then peeked in on the boys who were sleeping soundly, despite the battering wind and storm outside.
The drive south on the dark highway was precarious. Ryan seemed to be the only one driving that direction, since everyone else was going the opposite way, fleeing the heaviest destruction of the storm. Tree branches battered his SUV and rain threatened to overwhelm his windshield wipers, but he finally reached the town he’d seen in the news the evening before.
Rescue crews were everywhere with boats, campers, and flashing lights. Ryan thought about volunteering to help rescue people, since he had some EMT training, but he remembered what had brought him here in the first place—to help a family.
He parked in a supermarket parking lot where temporary shelters had been erected to process and shelter victims of the flooding. Debris whistled through the air. The wind slammed into the shelters, threatening to toss them aside, but cords fastened to stakes in the pavement held them in place.
Outside of his truck, Ryan donned a pair of glasses to protect his eyes and prayed that God would lead him to the right people. He walked past the shelters where flood victims were crowded inside. They had all been given dry clothes and were being attended to by emergency personnel. Pressing farther on, he headed past the supermarket toward the floodwaters and up to the edge of the torrent that had claimed half the town.
Out of the darkness of the early morning, the light of a flashlight appeared. Ryan looked around. There were no rescue workers nearby. The landing for the emergency crew boats was farther down.
“Over here!” Ryan called into the wind. “Here! You’re almost to me! Come on!”
The flashlight beam wobbled, then settled on Ryan. He waded out into the water to a small rubber raft with a young man, his wife, and two small girls. The father had been paddling from the bow with only one paddle, and not very successfully. The girls were shivering in the wind and rain, and the raft had inches of water in the bottom.
Ryan took hold of the rope on the bow and tugged the raft up to the shore. The young father inside the raft collapsed in exhaustion as his family climbed out of the little vessel. One of the girls was crying, clinging to her mother, who wore no coat.
“My name is Ryan Gaultridge. You’re safe now.” He grabbed the man under the arms and helped him to his feet. “Come with me.”
Their names were Sam and Judy Erman. For an hour, Ryan was their personal escort through the shelter lines and processing. After the frazzled family received dry clothes, they were told that since they were so late in arriving, it could take three or four days before any actual housing opened up for them. Many other families had come first.
“It’ll be okay.” Ryan glanced outside their shelter at the overcast, dawning sky. “I know it seems like everything is terrible right now, but God provides, even in catastrophes. Would you believe me if I told you that God wouldn’t let me sleep, so I came down here, and you are the people I found?”
“I believe it.” Sam nodded. He was a machinist fresh out of trade school. Rolling up his sleeve, he showed Ryan an ugly tattoo. “I believe it was God who kept me alive from a wasted gang life. If you tell me God brought you to us, I believe it.”
“My wife might be a little surprised, but she’ll be happy to host you, if you’ll come stay with us.” Ryan nodded at Judy. “She’s a little older than you, but you two are about the same size. And we’ll find new clothes for the girls from people in our church.”
Sam shook his head, and for a moment Ryan thought the young father might refuse his offer. Suddenly, the man threw his arms around Ryan and embraced him, relieved that his family had a place to stay.
With the increased flow of traffic, it was a four-hour drive home, and almost noon by the time Ryan pulled into his suburban driveway. The rain had stopped, and his two boys ran outside to welcome him. Megan, hands on her hips, stood in the open doorway.
“Your text was little cryptic,” she called from the doorstep. “What did you mean when you said to prepare the guest room?”
Sam and Judy and their two girls climbed out of the SUV. They had no possessions except for one first aid safety blanket, given to them at the shelter, and two water bottles.
“We have house guests!” Ryan announced. “Remember the flooding we saw on TV last night?”
“But Dad,” his youngest son said, “it’s Father’s Day. We were supposed to go to the batting cages.”
“You’re right, it’s Father’s Day.” Ryan chuckled. “Doesn’t that mean your father gets a say in what happens? Can you say hi to our new friends?”
Megan left the doorstep having heard Ryan’s explanation, and immediately took to Judy, like two sisters reunited even though they’d never met. The two boys led the girls inside, and within seconds, Ryan and Sam were left alone, standing side by side next to the vehicle.
“Not a bad Father’s Day, I suppose.” Sam nodded. “Thanks for this, Ryan.”
“It only gets better. Meg’s a great cook. Come on inside. We have sleeping bags for the girls, and you and Judy can have the guest bedroom.”
“This is asking so much of you, Ryan.” They walked together toward the front door. “Are you sure about all this—two families under one roof?”
“God’s hand has been in this from the beginning. Let’s not second guess Him, and just see where He leads.” Ryan held open the door for Sam. “After you, Sam. Welcome.”