A Father's Story
by Lorilyn Roberts
My first concept of God as my heavenly Father was shown to me by my adoptive
father, Gene Roberts, who went to be with the Lord in 1994. I want to honor his memory of adoption with this passage
from my new book Children of Dreams. I know he must be smiling from heaven. He challenged me to write my first
mystery book when I was twelve. Thank you, Dad, for giving me the love of writing. May you rest in peace.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart…
I have always been fascinated with trains. My adoptive father, Gene, was a train collector.
He liked what I call the “oversized” ones that were antiques. Although many in his collection had chipped paint
and dents or otherwise looked “used,” their battle scars didn’t take away from their sense of intrinsic
value. They represented something from the past worth remembering.
Shortly after Mother and Gene married, my new
dad wanted to have a special father daughter day for just the two of us. A one day “Fall Leaf Special” train trip
from Atlanta to the North Georgia mountains had been advertised in the newspapers.
Dad purchased the tickets and I counted off the days. I told all my friends in school that I couldn’t wait.
At last the day arrived and Mother woke me up early that morning to see us off. She packed us a brown paper
sack lunch and bid us a good time. We drove in Dad's 1964 white Chevy to the train station in downtown Atlanta on an early
Saturday morning in September. Just as we arrived, the sun poked out from behind the clouds, promising to be a beautiful sunny
We gave the train conductor our tickets and climbed aboard.
Dad let me sit in the window seat, and I peered out waiting impatiently as other people made their way to their seats. Eventually
everyone was seated on the train and we waited. We waited some more. Nothing happened. Suddenly we heard the crackling of
the intercom and a loud voice speaking, “We are having some problems with a coupler, but we hope to have it fixed soon.”
More time passed. I sat in the train staring out the window, imagining what it would be like to leave the station
behind. In my mind I could hear the revving of the loud engines, the whistle blowing, and feel the lurch of the train as it
moved forward, while things outside would start to peel away.
But the minutes stretched into an hour or more
and the train remained still and quiet. My hopes began to fade as the long anticipated train trip seemed to slip away. The
crackling of the intercom broke the silence once more as we all listened for the final verdict on the broken coupler.
“We're sorry to report that we can't fix the problem and the trip has been canceled. We deeply regret any inconvenience
this has caused and hope to have it fixed soon. Please come again.”
That day I learned life isn't fair. We drove home disappointed and disillusioned. In the years that followed,
I thought many times about my dad and I making the trip once more, but as often happens in life, the important things get
pushed aside by the “tyranny of the urgent.”
In more melancholy moments, I lamented about the
train trip we started but never finished. It bothered me because it was a special day set aside with Dad that never happened.
I was eight years old at the time.
When I was thirty-seven,
Dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was a difficult time for all of us. My red Firebird must have left grooves in the
pavement of I-75 from Gainesville to Atlanta as I made many trips to be with him.
One afternoon while I was in Atlanta,
mother noticed in the newspaper an advertisement for the one day “Fall Leaf Special” train trip from Atlanta to
North Georgia to enjoy the beautiful fall colors in the mountains.
“I want to make that trip,” I told her. “Let’s do it this fall while he is still with us.”
I reminded her about the train trip we tried to take thirty years earlier that was canceled because of the broken
coupler. After much prodding, she agreed. We purchased train tickets and a few weeks later I drove up once again to Atlanta
from Gainesville. This time Mother would come along, also.
were prepared in brown paper bags and we made sure Dad had his medicines, along with his cowboy hat to protect his head from
the sun as a result of radiation treatments.
We arrived at the train station and I parked the van. It was a beautiful
day. The darkness had given way to sunshine and I looked forward to the long anticipated event, albeit thirty years later.
We made sure Dad was comfortable, had his hat on, and proceeded over to the station platform. Dad laughed and gave me a wink
and a smile. I felt like time had rewound, except he had become the child and I had become the parent. I grabbed his hand
to make sure he didn’t get lost or fall. In so many ways it seemed like it was only yesterday that we had been at the
I handed the train conductor our tickets, we climbed the
stairs, found a train car we liked, and sat down. I let Dad have the window seat. We sat and waited, and I stared out the
window that had become like a portal looking back thirty years, waiting for the revving of the engines.
the whistle blew, the train lurched forward, and the view of the outside world began to disappear faster and faster behind
us, until we had left the station far behind and the world outside the train was a blur.
Dad and I shared a quiet, unspoken moment and remembered. Even though he could hardly talk, he didn’t
need to speak. Today we would finish our long-awaited train trip.
As we left the noise and crowded streets of Atlanta
behind, suburbia was replaced by large open fields and an occasional farmhouse. The red clay became a green countryside of
rolling hills and valleys, and the chugging of the train was the only thing that could be heard. Soon the world outside became
an array of blurry reds and yellows as the flaming, vibrant colors of fall blanketed the trees.
is satisfaction in never giving up and completing something one begins. I often tell my children, “Never give up on
your dreams. Even if you don’t accomplish everything that God sets before you, He has a plan and a purpose. The world
is filled with mediocrity. Don’t be like the world. In everything, you should do it as if you are doing it unto the
Lord, and then give God the glory.”
Like the seasons that come and go with predictability bringing saneness
to our chaotic world, God brings completeness. In Isaiah 55:11, He promises that His word “will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Each day I ask God to help me to finish the race set
before me, just as Dad and I finished that train trip back in 1993. I am glad there is a new morning every day and each
day starts over. God loves new beginnings, rebirth, and so do I.
wonder if there are trains in heaven.