4:00 A.M. Ice Cream

“4:00 A.M. Ice Cream,” New Era, Aug. 1998, 35

4:00 A.M. Ice Cream

Too early for dessert? Maybe. But not too early to wake up to how much I was loved.

During my senior year in high school, I realized that I wouldn’t be seeing my family very much. With homecoming activities, honors classes, and my job, the hours I spent at home were few and far between. In the mornings I would kneel with the family for prayer. Then with a quick amen and hugs all around, I’d rush out the door to the bus. A foil-covered dinner would greet me each evening when I arrived home late. The rest of the family was asleep, so a textbook propped up against my glass of milk was my only company as I ate.

Later, I’d tiptoe upstairs and whisper good night to my sleeping parents. Mama would prop up a little on her elbow, “How was your day?”

“Fine.” The standard answer, but one they accepted.

I’d feel my way down the hall into the dark bedroom where my five other sisters slept. I always made sure I kissed them each on their cheeks and whispered, “I love you.” I wonder if my words ever entered their dreams. Then, setting my alarm clock, I’d say my prayers and crawl into bed.

Life continued like this for several months. I was just too busy.

Then one morning I was awakened by a flashlight shining directly into my eyes. Startled and peering past the bright beam, I was surprised to see my Papa clad in pajamas and robe with a big grin on his face.

“What time is it?” I asked, yawning.

“4:00 A.M.,” said Papa, his face never losing the grin.

“You’re kidding. Is something wrong?”

“No,” he said, “follow me.”

I crawled out of bed and sleepily followed him downstairs. As I rounded the corner, I was surprised to see the living room light on and a small table pulled up to the couch. On the table were two dishes of ice cream with chocolate cookies stuck in the top. It looked very inviting.

“What’s this?” I asked incredulously.

“Have a seat,” Papa said. He took me over to the couch and sat me down. “All right, let’s talk.”

“Papa, you’re kidding. No one gets up just to talk and eat ice cream at this hour.”

“I know, but I haven’t seen you for a while, and I wanted to know how things are going in your life.” He hugged me and handed me some ice cream.

As we ate, we talked, really talked, for the first time in many weeks. Papa wanted to know about everything: How’s school? Work? Grades? Are you okay for money? Do you have a boyfriend? Are you healthy? How are you doing spiritually?

One by one I answered his questions, told him my concerns, and asked for advice. My heart thrived on the love I felt from him. With 10 other children in the family, how could he possibly care so much about my life? But he did. Momentarily all the bills, work, Church callings, and the interests of a dozen other people he had to care for were forgotten. He was concerned about me. On that couch, side by side, giggling, laughing, and sharing the deepest feelings and thoughts within us, we passed the early morning hours. We talked long after the ice cream was gone.

It has been many years since that morning. I don’t live at home anymore, and now it’s normal not to see Papa or the family for a few weeks or months. But that four o’clock morning is engraved on my soul, a memory sweeter than ice cream. That morning I really knew someone cared—my father.

Many times since then, when life gets rough, I have been awake at 4:00 A.M., wishing for someone to talk to, wishing for someone who cared enough to ask me those questions. Papa cannot drive the many miles to shine a flashlight in my face. And most people are too practical to serve up ice cream at four in the morning.

However, even when my papa isn’t there, I know from his example of another Father who also watches over his daughters and his sons. A Father who is willing to listen about school, about problems, about life; one who knows us so well that He can see into and feel our hearts; a Father who understands perfectly the world we are facing, our fears and hopes, and asks all the right questions.

That morning reminds me of Heavenly Father, a Father who is omniscient and omnipresent. This Father, too, is always willing to talk, no matter what time it is. And that’s even better than 4:00 A.M. ice cream.

Illustrated by Bryan Lee Shaw