Sister Susan?s prayer

This story was told to me by one of my readers.

I?m from a large family. I have three sisters and two brothers. My parents were the old fashioned German type. Dishes were to be done after supper, there was no radio or television until after homework, and if one of my brothers was disciplined at school, heaven forbid, you can believe there would be a come-to-Jesus talk delivered by my father at home. Our family name was to be upheld. What would the neighbors think? Did he expect to get a college scholarship with conduct like that? Yada-yada-yada. We all went to mass three times a week, said our prayers before bed, and a clean plate was next to godliness.

At the time, growing up, I resented what I thought was oppressive control, bordering on abuse. I look back on it now and realize that my parents really loved us, and think that what is lacking in today?s troubled homes is a lack of discipline.

My father, from the old German school of show-no-emotion, was head of the family. There was absolutely no show of public affection between him and my mother, us kids were to be seen and not heard, and, of course, he never told us he loved us. Later in life, that would change, so he did have the power to??evolve? is what they call it now. I remember him telling me over the phone, after my divorce, that he loved me. I stood there, stunned. What did I just hear?

The paramount rule in our family was that we were all to be home for supper, not dinner, supper. We could be scattered all over the county, involved in all sorts of stuff, but we were all to be home for supper. We had a large dining room table, father said grace, and no one left the table until everyone was through and we were excused.

All this changed when my sister, Susan, got a job as a clerk at Kresge?s Department Store. Her hours were noon until 8 p.m. So Susan couldn?t be home for supper. But a plate was still set for her, and we all looked at that empty plate like she was a missing molar from the back of our mouths.

Susan loved her job. She flitted around helping customers try on clothes, find just the right card for whatever occasion, and answering the phone. ?Kresge?s, how may I help you?? I think, secretly, she enjoyed getting away from the iron rule of our family and mingling with a variety of people.

My dad sorely missed Susan at the dining room table. (I just thought of this. It was the dining room table, not supper table.) Dad would start to say, ?Where?s Susan?? and then catch himself, remembering that she had a job.

But the day came when Susan changed shifts?she was promoted to days?so she was home for supper. There she was at the table.

Dad, beaming, said, ?Well, lookie who?s here. Would our guest like to say grace?? This was a shock, because no one said grace but Dad.

Susan, taken off guard, stammered, ?S-Sure.?

We all bowed our heads. Susan sputtered, ?Dear, Lord. How may I help you??

We froze, like at night when you wake up and can?t move your arms.

Then we heard what sounded like a gurgle. I peeked with one eye. It was Dad. His hand was clamped over his mouth, tears rolling down his face. (I just now thought of this. This was the first time I ever saw my father cry.)

Then he let it all out. A deep, from the gut, German laugh that was more like a bull bellowing. He pointed at Susan. ?That?s the best prayer I ever heard!?


Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at, or find him on Facebook. Curt?s stories are read at 106.3 FM in Farmington.