“Okay, I’ll call you later… Dad’s here,” 18-year-old Sabrina hung up as soon as she heard her father Pete, a coal miner, park his van in the garage.
She kept changing channels on the TV, trying to avoid Pete’s attention. She hoped he wouldn’t ask her about her upcoming graduation, which was scheduled in two days.
Sabrina didn’t want Pete to attend because she was ashamed of his appearance. She feared her father would attract negative attention because he looked “dirty” and smelled of coal and sweat …
“Hey, sweetie! Look what I got for you,” Pete said as he entered, sounding happy.
Sabrina was surprised, but held back. It wasn’t that she didn’t like surprises, but she hated seeing her father’s black face and hands. She never allowed him to touch and soil any of her things.
Pete understood Sabrina well. He had been doing this for several years since she had become motherless. So he gave Sabrina her space and respected her boundaries, leaving the two packages on the table instead and saying:
“Sweetie, I hope you love them!”
When Sabrina saw that her father was out of sight, she quickly unpacked the box and found a beautiful dress inside. She loved it and started to blush. Then she opened the other box and saw an expensive suit inside.
“Thank you for the dress, dad. But who is this suit for?”
“It’s for me, honey! I have to look great…it’s your graduation, after all!”
Sabrina pursed her lips in frustration. She threw the box and said in a stern voice:
“Dad, I don’t want you to come. All my friends and their parents will attend. I don’t want them to laugh at me after they see you, okay???”
A serious silence spread around Pete as he walked out of the washroom and wiped his face. He was shocked and Sabrina’s words hit him like a bag of rocks.
“What did you say?”
“Dad, my friends’ fathers have prestigious backgrounds. They’re all rich and look like celebrities. I don’t want you to stand among them. Dad, I hope you understand. No matter how well you dress, everyone can easily tell that you are a miner just by looking at your dirty face and hands. I don’t want them to laugh at me. Please don’t come to my graduation.”
Pete was so offended because he was looking forward to attending the event.
“But thank you for the dress. I love it!” Sabrina went to her room and slammed the door to try on the dress, leaving Pete with more than just a broken heart.
Pete thought Sabrina was too young to understand his love for her.
“She’s just a little girl!” he comforted his broken heart and decided to go to graduation anyway with a surprise he had already planned for her.
On graduation day, two days later….
“Honey, do you at least want me to drop you off at your school?”, Pete asked Sabrina. She looked so pretty and he was so proud that she finally graduated.
“Drop me off?? No need, Dad. My friend Dave is coming to pick me up in his car. I don’t want to ruin my dress by riding in your dirty van.”
“All right! Have a great day, sweetie!”
“And Dad, don’t come, okay? I’m trusting you not to come. Bye…see you later!”
Pete waited for Sabrina to leave so he could quickly get ready and attend the event.
“How can I miss such an important day in my daughter’s life? I have to be there!”
Shortly after, Pete arrived at the venue and sat down in the seating area for parents. He cheered as the students were awarded. He couldn’t wait to see Sabrina get her degree.
“Next, we’ll call Miss Sabrina!” the host announced.
Pete ran forward with his cell phone and started filming as Sabrina received her degree. He was so happy, but Sabrina was shocked when she saw her father.
“Congratulations, honey!” continued Pete, yelling from beneath the podium. “I’m so proud of you!”
But Sabrina didn’t smile or respond. Instead, she groaned and joined her friends. She couldn’t wait for the ceremony to be over so she could be mad at her dad for being there.
Suddenly, she heard the emcee say:
“Mr. Parker, can we please have you on stage.”
Sabrina was stunned and didn’t understand what was going on as she watched Pete walk to the podium.
“Why is he calling my father on stage? Oh no … what’s going on?”
Pete happily walked to the stage and took the mic.
“Thank you, Mr. Lauren! Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!” began Peter. “Can we have the slide show, please?”
The audience and Sabrina were stunned as the room dimmed and the projector ran. Pete had made a beautiful video with pictures of him and Sabrina from their childhood to before graduation. The day before graduation, he had met with the principal and staff and explained his intention to surprise his daughter. He had therefore received special permission to surprise Sabrina as soon as she received her degree.
“I love my daughter. Sabrina, I am so proud of you. I hope your mother would be just as proud if she were here today. Emma, if you happen to be here, you can see for yourself! You told me so, I couldn’t raise my daughter on my own, but there can’t be another father in the world who is as proud as I am now. Congratulations, Sabrina … we did it!”
Sabrina burst into tears after watching the video. She ran to her father as everyone gave him a standing ovation. She hugged him and exclaimed:
“Thank you so much, dad! I’m sorry.”
Pete wiped away his tears and enjoyed the rest of the evening. On the way home, Sabrina remembered Pete talking about her late mother. His words had troubled her.
“Dad, why did you say Mom would be proud if she was at graduation? She’s been gone a long time, and how will she attend if she’s dead?”
Peter looked at Sabrina and laughed.
“Your mother is not dead, honey. She’s alive and living in this town!”
Sabrina was shocked to be told that her mother had died. But it was a lie, and Pete never wanted his daughter to know the truth about her mother until she was of age.
“WHAT, MOM IS ALIVE? Dad, why didn’t you tell me?”
Pete realized it was time to make the biggest confession of his life.
“Because your mother never wanted you. She told me your birth father had died. She told me it was my choice whether to raise you or leave you in the orphanage.”
It turned out that Pete and his wife, Emma, had divorced when Sabrina was young. Before Emma moved on, she had told Pete that her daughter was not his. Pete had been heartbroken and had decided to raise the girl as his own.
“I couldn’t see you as someone else’s child. You were my world, and you are my everything today,” Pete cried.
Hearing this, Sabrina threw herself into Peter’s arms and cried on his shoulder.
“You’re not my real dad?”
Pete hugged her back.
“Honey, I may not be your real father, but I don’t love you any less. Forget what I just told you. You are always MY DAUGHTER, regardless of anything or anyone.”
“I’m sorry, Dad. I’m ashamed for hurting you. I called you ‘dirty’ and ‘smelly’ without knowing about your sacrifices for me. What would have happened to me if you hadn’t stood up for me and raised me? Please forgive me.”
Pete wiped away Sabrina’s tears and they drove home, where he had invited all his friends and neighbors to celebrate his daughter’s graduation.
Pete and Sabrina never spoke of their past again. Surprisingly, Sabrina was no longer ashamed of her father. She was proud of him and realized that he was not a disgrace, but a great man who had raised her with love and care when her mother left her.