An Angel in Disguise

An Angel in Disguise

From Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul

An Angel in Disguise

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

When I first met Damon, he was working on a fence that divided our property. My mom and I were in the field across from him. He seemed like a nice enough guy once we were acquainted, but since his kindness was being directed toward my mother, in my mind he became the devil in farmer’s clothing.

I had just turned ten and the only man I had ever been around a lot was my father. So when Damon and my mom began to see more of each other, I didn’t know how to handle it. My dad had not been a great example of the male species, so Damon didn’t have a chance in my heart. To put it bluntly, I hated the man.

The only reason I could figure why Damon kept hanging around was so he could hurt our family and cause us all a lot of pain. Now I couldn’t let that happen, could I?

For about six months, Damon tried every way imaginable to win my approval. He bought me things and was always taking my side in everything, no matter if I was right or not. He let me get away with everything. So, of course, I kept up my attitude even more. I was seeing this grown man begging for me to like him or at least accept him. So for just as long as he tried to win me over, I shot down every single attempt with a harsh word or a hatred-filled look. Sometimes I would do both.

But he never quit. Every time I hurt him, he just kept right on trying. Eventually it began to work and finally Damon and I became friends.

Surprising as it may seem, that crazy old man and I had a lot in common. He understood me more than I thought anyone could. Damon was a lot of fun to be around, and my friends and I loved going places with him. He liked to do all the things we did.

I remember him saying once, “I would rather you kids be with me having fun than be out on the streets getting into real trouble.” He loved kids and he wanted all of my friends and me to be safe. He wanted to provide a place for us to call home.

Damon had two daughters. Mom had Nichole, Josh and me. All of our friends became part of the family. Whether we were working or eating dinner together, we always had fun and always found something to laugh about.

Although we didn’t always get along, those times are nothing compared to the really good memories I have of Damon. For five years of my life, he was always there. Damon became the father I had never had. We had an unspoken bond between us that made us inseparable. I liked working with him and watching him work.

Right before my sixth-grade summer, Damon and I bought two bottle-fed bull calves. I called one Floppy, because of his ears, and the other Doofus (Doofus was named after Damon). We had fun with them because it was something we could do together. We built a pen in the barn for them and took turns feeding them about five to ten times a day. Usually Damon was the one taking turns.

He knew how I longed for a horse and, although he wasn’t quite “cowboy” material, he made sure that I got one.

Damon not only gave me material things, he also taught me a lot of things about life and how to live it. When I met Damon, I was going through tough times. I had just realized that my daddy wasn’t the saint I had thought he was, and like I said, the male species wasn’t on my list of things to like. I lived in an unhappy world, and Damon was the only one who was able to get the walls around my heart to fall. I had always kept my emotions bundled up inside, and he showed me that talking was a good thing. I was finally happy with myself and my life, thanks to him.

One day out of the blue, Damon had a cerebral aneurysm. Earlier in the year my Papa Troy had had an aneurysm and had died the first night. So, regardless of what anyone told me, I was thinking the worst. But Damon survived the first night and the next night, too, and we all became hopeful. He was in a room in the ICU wing of the medical center.

After the aneurysm, he also had a few strokes and because of them he could not speak. I did not like going to see him because Damon was not “Damon” without his voice. He also looked so weak and helpless, and it hurt me dearly to go see him. I always got a knot in my stomach when I went to the hospital. But I went with hopes that he would respond to me.

Each time I went, though, I could not make myself talk to him. Damon was in ICU for about two or three weeks, and for a while he seemed to be getting better.

Then we found out that Damon’s insurance would not pay for the type of care he was getting. He would have to be moved out of the hospital. In July, we moved Damon to a rehabilitation hospital in a nearby town. It was the closest thing we could get to home.

After Damon was moved, I only went to see him three times. I hated seeing him in that environment. Around the middle of November, Damon developed some kind of disease in his bloodstream and his health began to gradually decline.

In December, I went to see Damon because my mom said he was a lot worse and that he might like to see me.

When we went into the room, Mom explained to me that if I was going to hold his hand or touch him in any way I had to have gloves on because he was really sick. I was standing beside him watching him struggle for every breath, watching him suffer, and I couldn’t do anything to help him. I broke down. I had been holding it in for so long I just couldn’t do it anymore.

That night at home I went to bed with a heavy heart. I prayed that Damon would quit suffering regardless of the cost to me. I prayed that I could see him one more time. But I didn’t want to see the man lying in that hospital bed. It wasn’t Damon. I wanted to see the Damon that I remembered: the one that I hadn’t seen in almost seven months. After I had prayed, I was afraid to go to sleep. I was afraid that if I dreamed about him, which I often did, I would wake up to find him gone.

But I didn’t dream about him again until Tuesday, December 22. That night I woke up around eleven o’clock to my mother’s crying. At that moment, I knew. My brother came and told me, and I went and sat with Mom for a while. But I went back to sleep shortly and I slept soundly the rest of the night.

In the dream I had that night, I saw Damon on his tractor. He was smiling and I knew it was him. I also realized that he was free from any pain.

On the day of the funeral, I was a wreck. I finally realized it was over. I was going to miss him so much, but then again, I had been missing him for seven whole months.

It is now just over a month since we laid him to rest. As I write this, I still get a little teary-eyed. Damon was the greatest man I have ever met but I never told him. I never even told him that I loved him. I always thought that there would be time for that later.

Now, in everything I see, I am reminded of him. I miss the sound of the tractor and the smell he had when he came in after a long day of work. I even miss the annoying way he laughed. I just wish that one more time Nichole and I would be able to laugh with him.

Life is such a precious thing. Every day is taken for granted. There is a song called “One Day Left to Live,” and I think everyone should live by it. It says to live your life like you have one day left to live. Don’t live for the future and don’t live for the past. Live for right now. Because right now is the only time that matters.

Megan Jennings, fifteen

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