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Finding the Right Words

I was living my dream. Dad would be proud. But I needed him there on that special day…

Public speaking has never been my problem. For years I was a lawyer. I can’t tell you how many closing arguments I’ve made. I guess it’s in my blood. My dad was a politician—Dayton, Ohio’s first African American mayor. So it shouldn’t have been hard to write the acceptance speech I was scheduled to deliver after being appointed to a judgeship in Common Pleas Court. Ascending to judge had been my dream—and the dream Dad had had for me, as well. I sat at my desk, pen in hand, paper in front of me. But no words came.

I wished I could have consulted Dad, asked him for guidance. He’d know the exact words to say, I thought. But Dad had died 16 months before.

Just then the phone rang. It was my sister Annette. “You’ll never guess what I found today while rummaging through some old papers,” she began. Just what I need, I thought. I’m trying to concentrate, and she’s off on a whirlwind of chatter.

I half-listened as she bantered on about this and that. Time was growing short. I tried to think about my speech. I thought again of Dad. He was 51 when he became mayor—my age. At the time, his daughter—my sister—Annette was 14. I had a 14-year-old daughter, too. Strange, I thought.

“Frances!” Annette shouted into the phone. “Frances, you’re not even listening!”

“Sorry,” I said. “I’m just so worried about what to say. I’m being sworn in tomorrow.”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you,” she said. Annette had called because while riffling through Dad’s old papers, she discovered that the date of my swearing in was the same as the day Dad was named mayor.

Dad’s there with me, I thought. I thanked Annette and hung up the phone. I picked up my pen. It felt like Dad was watching over my shoulder. The words began to come. I stopped worrying. I knew I’d do just fine.

Read more Mysterious Ways.

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