Chapter 3: Communication Problems

“Chrissy, would you please read this week’s memory verse off the board?” Miss Jones asked me one Monday morning during the first few weeks of school.

My head jerked up with a start and my pencil flew from my hands. It had finally come. The moment I had been dreading was here—the moment when I was asked to read aloud from the board.

It wasn’t the reading itself that was a problem. It wasn’t the speaking aloud in class, either. I was more than happy to read the memory verse off the board…if only I could see the memory verse on the board.

Our old teacher, Mrs. Dunn, had always written on the board in large, loopy letters that were easy to read and only required a little bit of squinting. Our new teacher’s handwriting, however, was smaller and tighter. I couldn’t read it at all. I might have mentioned this on the first day of school, except that no one else in class seemed to have this problem.

“Chrissy?” Miss Jones prodded. “The memory verse?”

I knew I couldn’t sit there and squint all day. I had to admit the truth. “I can’t see the board,” I muttered in defeat.

“Oh.” Miss Jones hesitated. “Okay. Why don’t you walk closer until you can see it?”

I stepped away from my desk and moved several feet closer to the board. “It is the…” I began, but couldn’t make out the rest. I moved until I was only a few feet away from the board. “ It is the Lord who goes before you,” I read. “He will be with you; He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8.”

Embarrassed, I hurried back to my seat. Miss Jones didn’t say anything more, but somehow I knew I had not heard the end of this.

Later that evening, Miss Jones walked into the kitchen while my mother was fixing super. “I think Chrissy might need glasses,” she announced.

This, of course, was a major downside to having my teacher live in my house. It used to be that if something happened at school, unless it was really bad, my parents would probably never find out about it because they only talked to my teacher every once in a while. But now my parents and teacher talked all the time.

No good could come from this much school-to-home communication. My mother’s reaction was proof of this. “What do you mean she might need glasses?” Mom exclaimed. “Chrissy has glasses. She’s supposed to be wearing them all the time at school.”

“That’s news to me,” said Miss Jones. “I’ve never seen them.”

I tried to pull off a subtle disappearing act from the kitchen, but instead I found myself unable to move, trapped by a “Mom Look” from one side of the room and a “Teacher Look” from the other.

Seriously, how many kids in the universe have to face this kind of treatment just for stepping into their own kitchen to get a glass of juice?

“Yeah, about that….” Desperately I tried to come up with a good excuse for why I didn’t wear my glasses. They were old? They were ugly? I thought they made me look like an owl? I was afraid they’d get in the way when I played sports? All these reasons seemed perfectly logical to me, but I knew they were not going to fly with either my mom or my teacher.

I sighed in defeat. I know when I’m outnumbered.

Believe it or not, having Miss Jones around was not the most awkward situation going on in my home. Even more stressful than learning to live with my teacher was learning to live with my father again.

My parents had recently gotten back together after being separated for almost a year. This should have made me happy, and for the most part it did, but it also brought even more things to worry over and even more changes to my life.

First and foremost was the worry that my father might start drinking again, which was the reason for the separation to begin with. My dad had been an alcoholic my whole life, and even though he was sometimes able to quit for long periods of time—like right now—he had always gone back to drinking eventually. I had very little hope that this time would be any different.

Then there was the issue of suddenly having my father back in my life again. Sure, I had missed him when he didn’t live with us, but I had also gotten used to it. Now he was back, and we were both relearning how to be around each other.

One afternoon, my father came home with several packs of football trading cards.

“Look what I picked up,” he announced. “It’s the new line of Touchdown football cards. They’re supposed to be really nice.”

Dad and I had once been major football card collectors. We would open packs and packs of cards together, looking up their values in magazines, putting the best ones in cases and organizing the rest into binders, rejoicing together when we found an especially rare card or a player we really liked….

Except all of that had been before the separation, before my dad moved out. I had barely touched our football cards since, and to be honest I wasn’t all that interested in starting up again. I knew it wouldn’t be the same.

But how could I tell that to my father?

“Uh…can we open them later?” I stalled. “I promised to help Matthew and Timothy clean their bedroom today.”

Dad looked at me like he thought I was making this up. “Why would you need to help clean your little brothers’ room?” he asked.

“I always help–.” I stopped midsentence. I could have kicked myself. Here I was trying to avoid one awkward situation, and I had gone and brought up another one.

Now what was I supposed to say? You know, Dad, after Mom asked you to leave because of your drinking, I started helping out around the house more. Now I do chores without being asked and look after the boys a lot and even help them clean their room because, honestly, it’s not easy being a single parent, which is what Mom was after you left, and I just wanted to help out. And even though you’re back now, I figure you’ll probably be gone again eventually, so I might as well keep it up.

Maybe some fathers and daughters could have a conversation like that, but they sure didn’t live in this house.

Luckily, at that moment Miss Jones burst through the front door, back from her daily five mile bike ride. And while I don’t think any kid should ever have to see their teacher in bicycle shorts, it did save me from an uncomfortable conversation with my dad.

Because it was an unspoken rule in my family that we didn’t talk about our problems in front of other people. Unfortunately, we didn’t really talk about our problems with each other, either. And this, I was starting to realize, might just cause a whole new set of problems for all of us.

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Chapter 3: Communication Problems

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