few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small,
Tennessee town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting
newcomer and soon invited him to live with out family. The stranger was quickly
accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later. As I
grew up, I never questioned his place in our family.
In my young mind, each member had a special niche. My brother, Bill, five years
my senior, was my example. Fran, my younger sister, gave me an opportunity to
play "big brother" and develop the art of teasing. My parents were
complementary instructors - Mom taught me to love the Word of God, and Dad
taught me to obey it.
But the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave the most fascinating tales.
Adventures, mysteries, and comedies were daily conversations. He could hold our
whole family spellbound for hours each evening. If I wanted to know about
politics, history, or science, he knew it all. He knew about the past,
understood the present, and seemingly could predict the future. The pictures he
could draw were so lifelike that often I would laugh or cry.
He was like a friend to the whole family. He took Dad, Bill and me to our first
major league baseball game. He was always encouraging us to see the movies, and
he even made arrangements to introduce us to several movie stars. My brother and
I were deeply impressed by John Wayne in particular.
The stranger was an incessant talker. Dad did not seem to mind. But sometimes
Mom would quietly get up and while the rest of us was enthralled with one of his
stories of faraway places, go to her room, read here Bible, and pray. I now
wonder if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave.
You see, my dad ruled our house with certain moral convictions. But this
stranger never felt obligated to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not
allowed in our house- not from us, our friends, or adults. Our longtime visitor,
however, used occasional four- letter words that burned my ears and made Dad
squirm. To my knowledge, the stranger was never confronted.
My dad was a teetotaler who did not permit alcohol in his home - not even for
cooking. But the stranger felt we needed exposure, and he enlightened us in
other ways of life. He often offered us beer and other alcoholic beverages. He
made cigarettes look tasty, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished.
He talked freely (probably much too freely) about sex. His comments were
sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. I now know
that my early concepts of the man - woman relationship were influenced by the
As I look back, I believe it was only because of the grace of God that the
stranger did not influence us more. Time after time he opposed the values of my
parents. Yet he was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave. More then thirty
years have passed since the stranger moved in with our young family on
Morningside Drive. He is not nearly so intriguing to my dad as he was in those
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