April 29, 1992
“When’s dinner mom?” asks my son, Harrison, from the other side of the couch. The only thing that separates the living room from dining area in our small apartment is the sofa. I’m in the kitchen, a narrow nook near the dinner table, preparing our evening meal. Kindergarten workbook pages are spread across the floor in a circle around my boy.
“As soon as your dad gets home.” I answer after checking on the macaroni casserole in the oven. Harrison throws himself on the floor and moans.
“But mom, I’m hungry now. You wouldn’t even let me have a brownie after school!”
“I think you’ll survive. I already told you we’re saving the brownies for dessert. Besides, dad should be walking through the door any time now.”
I glance at my watch. My husband should have walked through the door three hours ago. I’m getting worried, so I decide to make a call.
While I’m dialing the number my three-year-old daughter, Rachelle, makes her way around the dinner table. After setting a knife, fork and spoon in the vicinity of each plate, she adds an extra bonus of her own, a sparkle-maned pony for each family member, to make sure everyone has a dinnertime friend.
“Hey Dixie,” I say softly from inside the kitchen, so I don’t catch the kids’ attention. “Have you heard from Darian or any of the other car-pool guys? I mean, I know traffic can be bad, that’s a given when you commute between Concord and San Francisco, but weren’t they supposed to get back a long time ago?”
“You haven’t seen the news?” exclaims the wife of my husband’s best friend. “The Rodney King verdict came out today. The white police officers accused of beating him were acquitted by an all white jury. Everyone was expecting riots to break out in LA where the whole thing happened in the first place, but people are protesting in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkley. A man was assaulted right next to the medical school. It could have easily been one of the students. What’s worse, the Bay Bridge has been blocked off by protestors. No one’s been able to cross for hours.”
“Blocked off?” I murmur in distress.
“Get off the phone and watch the news.” orders my friend, “I promise I’ll call if I hear anything from Darian or the others. I know you’ll do the same.”
When I rush into the living room to turn on the TV, Harrison’s eyes grow wide as he scrambles to scoot his papers out of the way.
“… as you can tell from our video feed, busses and cars are overturned. Other vehicles are burning. Businesses have been ransacked and looted. No part of the city has been spared. Multimillion-dollar mansions have broken windows and show graffiti. Earlier, the brutal beating of a truck driver was recorded…”
“Mom, why are those people so angry?” asks Harrison.
How am I supposed to explain racial conflicts to a kid who sees no difference between himself and his friends of every color? To him they’re all the same.
“They don’t agree with what a court of law decided,” I answer. Rachelle comes over to crawl into my lap.
“Are those bad people coming to get us?” she asks.
I turn off the TV.
“You know that tunnel we have to drive through before we can reach daddy’s school in San Francisco?” My kids nod. The Caldecott Tunnel is hard to miss. “All that bad stuff is happening on the other side.”
“But isn’t dad on the other side of the tunnel?” points out my son.
I slowly nod. “Probably. But one way or another everything will be okay. We’ll wait a little while longer and if he isn’t home, we’ll go ahead and have dinner.”
“I don’t want to have dinner without daddy,” pouts Rachelle. I run my fingers through her soft brown curls, then kiss her forehead.
“You know what? I don’t want to have dinner without daddy either. But what do you think daddy would want?”
“For us to eat dinner.” answers Harrison with an aggravated sigh.
“Everything’s going to be okay.” I say again, this time more for me than them.
Rachelle snuggles up against me. Harrison joins us for a quick hug, then hops down from the couch like the little man he is, and tackles what’s left of his homework, because he knows that’s what his dad would want him to do.
“Look mom, I made a Lego sword!”
My son catches me in my room on my knees in prayer beside the bed. It’s been four hours now. I’m helpless. All I’ve got is prayer.
“That’s an awesome sword,” I answer as I get up, doing my best to hide my distress. “Do you know where your sister is?”
My son rolls his eyes.“She’s watching Barney downstairs.”
Harrison, carefully balancing his latest Lego creation, follows me down to where his sister is planted in front of the TV clutching her Barney toy.
“I-love-you, you-love-me…” Rachelle sings along with the purple dinosaur.
In spite of all his efforts, at the bottom of the stairs, Harrison’s sword breaks into pieces. He frowns and grunts in aggravation, then drops to the floor collecting parts.
“Hey mom! We should check out the news.” suggests my son as he’s handling his sword’s repairs.
“Hey Harrison!” I answer back. “How about we have some dinner?”
The boy hesitates for half a second. But as I knew would be the case, his need for food wins out.
“Daddy can have my pony friend. Do you think that might help?” asks Rachelle.
“It might,” I nod. “I’m sure daddy will enjoy being greeted by a couple friends.”
Thirty minutes later after we’ve had a meal of cold casserole, wilted salad, and brownies for dessert, an increasing number of ponies are crowded around the single plate still sitting on the table.
Five hours. I’m in the laundry room folding clothes when I feel the need to say another prayer. When I come out, I notice how the crowd of friends on the table has grown to include my son’s cherished set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Since the kids are upstairs playing before bedtime arrives, I turn the TV on again, keeping the volume down low.
“… Governor of California has called a state of emergency. Prior to the verdict, Police forces were summoned from other parts of the state to cover Los Angeles just in case rioting broke out. That left the bay area where we are, short handed, with almost nowhere to turn for help…”
Somehow little Rachelle silently appears at my side. As soon as I know she’s there, the TV is off.
“Look mom. I brought my Barbies down,” She runs to the table on the tips of her toes, to add the two dolls to the growing crowd. “Do you think daddy will like all of his friends?”
“I think you know how to make a daddy feel loved.” I say to her with a smile.
“You two better be in your pajamas with your teeth brushed,” I call as I climb the stairs.
“Do we have to go to bed now?” whines my son, “It’s not the same if we don’t read the scriptures with dad. And how’s he going to know what happens to Winnie the Pooh if he isn’t here when we read the next chapter?”
“I want daddy,” adds Rachelle.
“Alright,” I sigh. “You’ve got some toys to put away and I’ve got one more load of laundry to fold. Once I’m done, we can’t put it off any longer.”
Downstairs in the wash room, I can’t seem to handle the simplest of tasks. Rachelle’s favorite pink pants have a stain that I missed. None of Harrison’s shirts want to cooperate. They’re rumpled no matter what I do. With my husband’s favorite tee in my hands, I drop to my knees yet again. Before I can whisper a word, however, I get the distinct impression this time we need to have a family prayer. For a moment I try to set the idea aside. The kids are already upset. Why distress them more? But the prompting is too strong to ignore.
I call the kids down to the living room. Without protest they both come running.
“Is dad home?” calls Harrison before he reaches the bottom of the stairs.
“No,” I sit the two down. “He’s been gone for a very long time. Like you saw on TV, there are a lot of bad things happening. The bridge daddy uses to get home is blocked off, so he couldn’t use it. I was wondering if you would like to have a special family prayer to ask Heavenly Father to watch over your dad.”
They both solemnly nod, then kneel with me so we’re in a circle.
“Maybe we could each take a turn. I’ll go first.”
Again my children nod in agreement.
“Dear Heavenly Father, we are so thankful for Scott and the wonderful husband and father that he is. We are thankful for his hard work in school to become a doctor. Please watch over him and the others who are with him, that according to thy will, they will be safe and come home soon…”
“Can I go next?” asks Rachelle when I’m done.
“… Please bless daddy. I love him…” Her prayer is short and sweet, the sincere kind of prayer only a three-year-old can speak.
Harrison follows without a break.
“… I will clean up my toys and make my bed and do my homework. We need him to be with us. Please help mom feel better too…”
Tears are running down my cheeks when we are done. The two of them wrap me in their arms.
“It’ll be alright mom.” Harrison tells me, “Heavenly Father’s watching over dad.”
“Would you like me to read you a story?” I ask after wiping away my tears.
Rachelle finds a picture book. The kids settle at my sides and I begin to read. We’re scarcely three pages in, when the doorknob begins to rattle. All three of us turn toward the door. When it opens my husband appears.
“What?” he asks with a bewildered smile. The kids latch onto his legs.
“Heavenly Father answered our prayer!” cries Harrison. Rachelle’s too excited. She tries to say the words, but they don’t all make it out.
“Heavenly! Father! Prayer!”
“What are they talking about?” asks Scott, “The Bay Bridge was closed so we had to go out through Berkeley, then loop back down south. It was one long, miserable drive, but I’m fine.”
“Less than ten minutes ago we had a family prayer for you.” I tell him.
“Our prayers were answered!”cries Harrison again. “You’re home!”
“Prayers! Answered!” repeats Rachelle.
“Then I guess we should say thank you.” answers Scott.
Right then and there, as a family, that’s exactly what we do.
(As you may have guessed, this is a true story, which makes it even more wonderful.)