It happened to me when I was 12 (there’s that number again!) on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 1952. It set the stage for my first epiphany moment (technically, “epiphanic moment), on a calendar date I can never forget.

Early the next morning, Oct. 15, my mother awakened me with terrible news. My first dog King, a Boston Terrier, had crossed the road in the darkness of night to visit a female terrier, and had been suddenly struck by a car and killed. This is my second time ever sharing this story with a group. (The first you will soon learn about.)

I was crushed.

My epiphany moment came in two parts: (1) The first involved my father, a busy country doctor who made house calls.  Coming downstairs, I discovered he’d cancelled all his appointments and refused to go to work.  Tears were in his eyes.

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How could that be?  He was a doctor, methodical, a man of few words, caring, a good but quiet father, but not the emotional type. There he sat in his favorite red stuffed chair and hardly moved for a couple of hours. Always, when Dad came in late from a day of overworking, as soon as he would settle in this chair with his newspaper, King would jump up, circle, and settle in his lap. Dad, holding the paper just behind where the dog lay, would read.  In the morning, to start Dad’s day, Mom would send King upstairs on a mission: to literally jump up and down on my sleeping father until he would loudly complain, “Dog-gone-it, King, get down! Get down!”  But instead, Dad got up.  Every day it was the same scenario as I crawled out of bed awakened by the commotion a couple of doors away.

I began writing this by saying King was “my” dog.  But he wasn’t.  He was my father’s dog though I hadn’t then figured that out.  You see he had gotten him for me years earlier when I was in a body cast with a badly broken leg. On Oct. 15 I saw my father in a whole new way. In the passing years we grew closer  from that time on.

Since Dad didn’t go to work on Oct. 15, I didn’t go to school–the first day I’d missed that year. At home the three of us just quietly sorrowed together. And it was much quieter. We didn’t say much and I’ve forgotten the details.

The next day my father went back to work even harder to catch up, and I went back to school.  It was at a place and time when the schoolday began with calling the roll. (2) Now the second part of my epiphany moment came quickly. When the teacher came to my name, she paused and looked my way. “Johnny, where were you yesterday? I’m sure you knew reports were due.  Why you were absent?” I fought hard to control my emotions and was doing really well. “Why were you absent?” she repeated loud enough for everyone to hear.  The room was strangely silent.  “My…my dog died,” I declared just loud enough. For a couple of seconds the room became even more quiet. Then there were several titters of laughter from a couple of places behind me. The teacher smiled but said no more, continuing her roll call. I made myself wooden and stared straight ahead. I would not utter another syllable about what happened no matter what. Though I’d been in the classroom for six weeks, and had known several kids much longer, suddenly, I was in a room full of strangers.

I remember nothing more from that day sixty years ago. Nothing except for the two lessons I’d learned that weren’t in the teacher’s plans: (i) I have very real and deep feelings that are sometimes very different from those around me. (ii) A smart person doesn’t always share all he knows. And they can’t make me. There is a private world inside of each of us that is 100% personal, known by us and God, so it’s not a total secret. And that’s okay. There are 2 things we can control, at least in part: our tongue and our attitude. Don’t let anyone else take that freedom away.

It’s often risky to share. Perhaps a real part of real love is finding someone you can share more and more with without regret. And in more than one way. (Thank you, Karen .) My father has been gone for many years, and my mother recently died soon after just the two of us celebrated her 100th birthday.  As I write a faithful ever-present cat lies at my feet near my desk. And there’s no question that he is “my” cat.  But since he’s several species beneath me, he hasn’t a clue about what I’m saying.

But I hope you, as a fellow human, do.

(Now I hope you can you understand the meaning of an “epiphany moment” without even knocking on Webster’s or Oxford’s DOOR.)