Ettie Newlands

My Dad kept a compass attached to his dashboard with Velcro. A regular north, south, east, west little black plastic compass. He had it long before the days of the GPS or the cell phone.

We’re talking about a man who drove onto an off ramp on the interstate and when an ambulance was coming in his direction, said, “He’s in a bigger hurry than I am, he’ll go around me.”

My Dad couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag. Thus: the compass.

He thought it was so special that when he got out of his car, he covered it with a hat. He reasoned that if the compass were visible, someone would surely break into the car to steal it.

I’ve had it Velcroed to the dash of whatever car I’ve driven since he died in 1996.

Most of the things I have from my Dad aren’t as tangible as the compass.

My heritage, my hair, a tendency towards the pessimistic.

His admonition to “be kind, loving and good, the only things that make us different from other beings.”

The need to be warm, the smell of rain and loving the juice from canned pears.

I wear his wristwatch. Certainly not a feminine piece of jewelry, I “girly it up” with a pearl bracelet beside it.

He was disappointed that I wasn’t a boy, an athletic boy. I can still hear him telling me to “Put than book down and go outside and kick a ball.”

He did love me, in his harsh “Crying is for sissies” and “Poetry is for people who can’t write a whole story” way.

He taught me to swim and to bowl. He taught me that family always came first and that everyone else was “other.”

I keep the compass because he loved it and I loved him.

The compass makes me smile when I think about my Dad’s paranoia, but it also reminds me of something far more important.

My Dad’s compass reminds me that no matter where I’m going, no matter how lost I feel, my Heavenly Father is directing me, knowing exactly where I am and how to get me where I need to be.

I wonder if my Dad knew that.

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