Memory is not my strong point. Sometimes I can remember every word that was said, every movement made, but that is few and far between. Normally, my memories are fairly vague and frequently associated with a feeling or impression. However, there is one distinct memory that I still hold on to, from when I was about 10 years old.
I was out for dinner with my family: Mom, Dad, and two younger brothers. We were at Zentner’s Daughter Steak House in San Angelo, Texas, where I grew up. While we definitely went to Zentner’s for special occasions, we also went in between those special occasions… it was one of my Dad’s favorite places to eat.
In those days, I was an omnivore, and the way I liked my steak cooked was medium – medium rare. Charred on the outside, bright red on the inside. This was their specialty. They also had great baked potatoes, and if we were lucky the parents would order onion rings as an appetizer. It would come to the table on a plate, directly from a fry basket that was stuffed so full and tight that the result was a rectangle-shaped tangle of onions and batter.
That evening, we had been seated at one of the larger tables. Each of us kids needed our own seat, so we got one of those big round tables with six chairs.
When I look back to childhood now that I am in mid-range adulthood with children of my own, I think with horror: I was one of those fidgety beggars, the type that was always ready to leave and get to the next better thing or place, complaining about one thing or the other. I must have been kind of loud too, because as I got older, I have always had a hard time shaking the feeling that I needed to be quiet.
Anyhow, this evening I am pretty sure my folks were wanting to enjoy a leisurely dinner. I know that we ate and I was super full, and then we were just sitting around. The waitress had not brought the check, and us kids were getting restless.
The biggest part of my memory is that I was SO cold! I know it was warm outside because I had no sweater or jacket, so the AC must have been cranked in the way it is on a typical west Texas summer day.
I must have been shivering in addition to fidgeting, and very likely whining about it all. Finally, my Dad says, “Get over here Sam”.
When I got to his side, he put his big, warm arm around my shoulders and most of my little body. That moment, that feeling… THAT was my experience of love. It wasn’t just warmth, it was the pure love of a father for his little girl, and I felt that directly from his heart.
He died only a few years later. In the meantime, he still gave me those loving hugs whether I was cold or not, but that evening at Zentner’s was the one I remember the most clearly today, more than thirty years
after that dinner.
My God gives me that loving hug with each word in the Bible, and every time I pray to Him. It is such a treasure to have that memory rekindled daily. I am thankful for the comfort He is willing and able to provide.