Father of the groom didn’t quite have the same ring as mother of the bride, but I took my duties seriously. My oldest son, Josh, was getting married, and I wanted to do everything I could to make his wedding day the greatest, most perfect day of his life. Like my father did for my wedding.
Dad died years earlier and I still missed him. Maybe never more than I did now.
I stood outside the door of a shop I’d never been to and gave the shoes I was carrying another despairing glance. The shoes that went with my son’s tuxedo. That I had promised I’d take care of.
Josh and his bride-to-be, Tara, were about the same height. She planned to wear heels and Josh had confided to my wife, Debbie, and me that he didn’t want her to tower over him at the altar. Debbie had suggested putting stacked heels on his shoes.
I’d dropped the shoes off at the repair shop we usually used. I’d picked them up this morning and the heels were stacked, all right… into huge blocky platforms. They looked like Frankenstein shoes! And it was all my fault. I should have explained more carefully what needed to be done.
It was too late to order a new pair. What do I do now? I wondered.
I needed my dad, his ability to solve a problem, his calming voice. The one he had used on my own wedding day, some 33 years prior. Dad had seen not just my joy but my nerves. “Come here, son,” he had said, enveloping me in his arms. “You’re going to make a great husband. I love you.” My worries floated away.
Dad didn’t just look after his family. He sold insurance back in the days when you went door to door collecting weekly premiums and really got to know your customers. He believed providing insurance meant helping folks protect what they valued. Helping them, period. He practically invented “pay it forward.”
I’ll never forget the time he coached my Little League team and one boy showed up at practice wearing ragged sneakers. I overheard Dad ask quietly, “What size shoe do you wear, son?” At our next practice, the boy was wearing brand-new cleats. I never said a word to Dad but I was so proud to be his son.
Dad’s not here anymore, I told myself. It’s up to me. I found another shoe-repair shop in the Yellow Pages and drove there. Lord, let me come through for Josh the way Dad always did for me, I prayed, and walked in the door, Frankenstein shoes in hand.
The place was small and cluttered and looked like it had been there forever. A man my age stood at the counter. He wore a smudged smock and a gentle smile. “What can I do for you?” he asked.
I set the shoes on the counter and explained the problem. “All I want is to remove these platforms and get these shoes looking good enough so my son can wear them at his wedding,” I said. “I don’t care how much it costs. Can you help me?”
“I’ll do my best,” he said. He had me write my name and number on a ticket. “Come back tomorrow,” he told me.
I went back the next day. Josh’s shoes were ready. “They look as good as new!” I exclaimed, reaching for my wallet. “How much do I owe you?” The man shook his head. “There’s no charge.”
“What do you mean?”
He said, “You’re Buck Shear’s son, aren’t you?” He must have recognized the name on the ticket.
“Did you know my dad?” I asked.
“Not personally,” he said. “But my family will never forget him. My parents and grandparents bought insurance from your dad. Sometimes when they didn’t have the money, your dad would pay the weekly premiums for them.
“They were able to pay for my grandpa’s funeral because of your dad’s generosity. This is a small way I can say thanks.”
I left the store giving thanks of my own. To God, for letting Dad come through for me once again and reminding me how blessed I was to have the father I did. My son’s wedding day would be even more wonderful than I’d expected.
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