“Daddy, look at the early star!”
As we drove on our way home from church one Sunday evening in late October, I had seen a solitary light in the dark blue sky.
“That’s not a star,” Dad said from behind the wheel. “That’s Venus.”
“Venus?” I echoed incredulously. “You mean, the planet?” Dad nodded as I asked. “But how can we see it all the way from here?”
To my young mind, my Daddy was the smartest man in the whole universe. He knew how the light traveled from billions of miles away (it took years, he said), and how it reflected and refracted through the atmosphere and allowed us to see Venus from our place on earth.
“But how is Venus different from the stars, Daddy? It looks the same to me.”
“You can see the difference if you watch it closely. If it doesn’t twinkle, it’s a planet.”
I watched Venus as we drove along and pulled into our driveway. Not once did she twinkle. She just watched me and smiled a bright, steady smile.
So many times I remember Dad teaching me things that nobody else could. Only he was smart enough, and he took the time to. Many autumn nights were spent studying the galaxy, sometimes for homework and sometimes for fun. I learned various constellations by name with Dad’s help, and I enjoyed standing beneath the clear night sky to look at the stars. With Dad at my side, I would point out the Little Bear and the Big Dipper. My favorite was the Orion.
“Not the Orion,” Dad would correct me. “It’s just Orion.”
That confused me. After all, the others were the Little Bear and the Big Dipper. Why not the Orion?
“Because Orion isn’t just a bear or something. He’s a man, a great archer.” Dad pointed up to Orion and showed me the bow and arrow, and the three-star belt. “He’s the easiest to spot because of that belt.”
I began to look at Orion as a friend. And so he and all the other constellations became to me as I grew up fall after fall. Warm summer nights revolved into cool autumn evenings, and other studies replaced my amateur astronomy. Yet each year I looked forward to a clear view of my favorite stars and the memories they held.
Years later, as I was hurrying across my college campus on a busy November evening, I felt only the weight of my responsibilities. Behind all my thoughts was the fact that I missed home and was looking forward to the end of the semester. I was tired, and I needed the love of my family. But I put those thoughts aside to concentrate to concentrate on my present tasks. I had to get to a play rehearsal, where I hoped to finish my paper between acts.
As I approached the auditorium, I looked up and saw a friendly smile that I had not seen in some time. There, above the auditorium, just ahead of me, was Venus. She was shining as brightly as ever. Still not a twinkle – just a steady light.
My thoughts went back to home, which seemed light years away, where I had first met Venus. I had changed quite a bit in those years since our first meeting. I had grown up. But Venus and her smile had stayed the same.
And I needed that. I needed to know that some things remained constant in my quickly turning world. The Little Bear, the Big Dipper, Orion, home, my Daddy’s love – all were there, amid busy schedules and piling responsibilities. I need never doubt that, I know, and I will always be reminded of those consistencies in life when Venus smiles on me.