The Apple of My Father’s Eye
BY VICTORINA HOLDING
January 25, 1967 was one of the milder days in the Philippines. It was also my fifth birthday. Fragmented memories of neighbors who came to celebrate over some food and ice cream still dance in my mind; but one vivid image always comes into focus: my father with a plate of equally-divided slices of red apples – a treat for the most-privileged!
Until just recently, growing apples in the Philippines has been considered impossible mainly due to the fact that the three seasons (hot, hotter, and hottest) could not provide the proper climate for one of the most-coveted fruits. Imported apples were rare treats even for families who could afford them. I remember being discovered by one of my older sisters for sneaking a whole apple to myself. She tied me to one of our banana trees for my thievery. I felt avenged when my parents scolded her fiercely for mistreating the baby girl in the family, but the “apple lesson at the banana tree” has kept me from taking anything without permission from that day forward.
In my young mind, my father’s serving apple slices on my fifth birthday could not be outperformed, but the second and the third celebrations the following two days became like apples of gold in pictures of silver (Prov.25:11). Three days after my birthday, the greatest father in the entire world died in a hospital bed where he had been confined a week prior (a fact I would find out years later). It’s still unclear if he was ever given permission to leave the hospital on three separate occasions to attend an extended birthday party.
As I got older, my siblings and relatives made sure I knew what has always been evidently clear: my father was referring to me whenever he said, “the apple of my eye.” Perhaps it was because I was conceived in my parents’ older years, or because I was a sickly child who spent more days with a personal nanny than with another child. Intrigued by the appellation, I studied what the Psalmist meant when he prayed, “Keep me as the apple of the eye. Hide me under the shadow of thy wings” (Ps.17:8). What a privilege, indeed, to be the object of our Heavenly Father’s love; yea, even to be the favored object of our Savior’s gracious and merciful gaze!
What a privilege, indeed, to be the object of our Heavenly Father’s love; yea, even to be the favored object of our Savior’s gracious and merciful gaze!
My father was my very first hero. Although he died when I was only five, I still see him taking the whole family to a concert at the park. Once in a while he would bring his own violin, and would join the orchestra right there and then. He was an accomplished musician – a gift from God, really. His parents were wise to grant their only boy’s wish for his fourth birthday – a violin he spotted in a store window. I believe he never stopped playing ever since.
My father remains to be my favorite model teacher. He inspired love for both learning and teaching. I can still hear him warning us against a heedless mind as we watch a poor moth’s demise for hovering too close to our study table’s gas lamp. My father could have chosen to pursue a more lucrative career in music, but he was first a teacher. Our trips to the province and the seaside were not merely for our weak respiratory systems but also for much learning about nature, people, and all the poems that can be written from watching God’s creation do His bidding.
Saturday afternoons in our home were as predictable as my father’s obsession with cleanliness and orderliness. He would line us up from oldest to youngest for final inspection before the Lord’s Day the following morning. Hair and nails that needed trimming were met with intention and precision. Dirty ears did not go unnoticed. Our Sunday clothes and shoes were all laid out to avoid delays the next day, reminding us that Sundays may never be taken lightly. I loved the routine and the seriousness of the moment, and I still think back on those days with fondness.
I am convinced that each one of his children was the apple of my father’s eye. I believe my father’s jealous gaze over my siblings and me served its intended purpose during his forty-seven short years on earth. I learned early on that, “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous” (Ps.34:15); and I have held on to the promise that, “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye” (Zech.2:8). To this day, I slice up an apple slowly and thoughtfully. Seemingly ceremonial and irrational, the act has become a memorial to my earthly father’s extravagant love for his family and to Jesus Christ’s perfect love to a fallen humanity. Though my mind now wanders back to the Garden of Eden and its forbidden fruit, the images quickly take me to the Cross where a better Adam offered full atonement for my sin. Here I am brought into the presence of the Great I Am, the One who has kept me as the apple of His eye. I remain in childlike wonder: “How can it be?”
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