The Element of Surprise

Most of us who are readers like the element of surprise in stories because a surprise catches us off guard and produces drama. One of my writing books suggests that we should put several surprises in our books.

According the dictionary, a surprise isn’t necessarily something pleasant, but I’m thinking of the way it’s used in the sentence, “I have a surprise for you, and you’re going to love it!” Do you know of a single word that captures the nuance of a “wonderful surprise”?

My father, Glen Grosenbach, who served in the United States Navy while I was growing up, alternated periods of time aboard ship and in port. While he was on sea duty, he came home on leave at regular intervals. But the months he was gone seemed endless. The thing was, he liked to surprise us. In a good way of course.

Glen Grosenbach, the year he turned eighteen
Glen Grosenbach, the year he turned eighteen

One day while he my dad was away, my mother, my younger brother, and I went to Grandma Myers’ house or to church – I can’t remember which. After a couple of hours, we went back home, walked in the front door, and there was my dad, sprawled face down on the bed, fast asleep. My mom’s exclamations and tears of joy, as well as the hugs all round were exciting to Blake and me.

Blake and I loved the swing in the yard of the little house in Caldwell, Idaho.
Blake and I loved the swing in the yard of the little house in Caldwell, Idaho.

My dad served on several ships, among them the USS Eversole (DD-789), and the USS Watchman (AGR-16).

Letter from Dad
Letter from Dad

Usually, my dad let my mom know by letter when he was coming home from sea. But when I was seven or eight, he called on a phone patch via ham radio and gave my mom the details. If I remember right, we were living in Long Beach, California, at the time. When the big day arrived, my mom herded us kids – baby Marla, Doug, Blake, and me – into the car and drove us to the pier, where we tried to spot him among hundreds of sailors, all dressed in uniform, waving from deck of the ship. Talk about exciting. . .

Lt. Glen R. Grosenbach
Lt. Glen R. Grosenbach

I can’t remember all the times he surprised us. The year that I was a senior at Caldwell High School, in Caldwell, Idaho, he was stationed on a ship in dry dock in Mobile, Alabama.

Back ~ Norma, Blake, and Doug Front ~ Dan, Lorena, Glen, and Marla
Back ~ Norma, Blake, and Doug
Front ~ Dan, Lorena, Glen, and Marla

When I got home on the last day of classes, the swinging door from the kitchen opened, and out stepped my father. What a gift! I really appreciated the surprise, Dad, as did all of the family. Thanks again for coming home for my graduation. (I’m sure my siblings have similar stories to tell.)

May God bless you, Dad, and all my readers who are fathers, on this coming Father’s Day!

Posted on June 14, 2016

12 thoughts on “The Element of Surprise

  1. Love all the photos of your dad. I couldn’t help thinking of my oldest grandson who is considering Air Force R.O.T.C. next year. They are SO young at eighteen!

    1. Yes, they are, Carolyn! It’s hard to imagine that my dad – and thousands of others that age – went off to war when they were so young. Thanks for your input today. p.s. It was great to see you and your husband recently.

  2. Wonderful post, Norma. Even though I am a part of the family, I don’t think I have ever seen a picture of your father in uniform.

    I wonder what our heavenly father will look like when we see him face to face. That will probably be THE ULTIMATE surprise.

    Thank you for your kind words about fathers.

    1. How interesting that you’ve never seen my dad in uniform, Daryl. But of course that makes sense because he’d retired by the time he moved back to Caldwell. I like what you said about seeing our Father in heaven someday. Thank you! It’s going to be amazing.

  3. How wonderful that you saved your Dad’s letter. I imagine today’s military can skype with family!

    I have much admiration and respect for your Mom, who was raising five children during the time your Dad was serving at sea! I only raised one child and my pilot husband was only gone 3-4 days at a time..

    Hats off to your Mom & Dad for good surprises!

    1. Actually, Diane, all I have is the envelope, pulled from a scrapbook. I agree with you about my mom. She always said it was the Lord who “carried her through,” as the song says (Jesus is a Wonderful Savior.) I’m sure you had your share of tough times while your husband was away. Your comments mean a lot. Thanks!

  4. I love your writing, Norma. Your dad sounds really wonderful. I am so happy for all the sweet surprises he gave you. Peace be with you.

    1. Thanks for reading my blog today, Ellen, and for your encouragement. I forgot to say that when my dad came home from sea, he always brought a suitcase of fun things for us kids, such as a hand-painted doll, or a bamboo umbrella, or trinkets fashioned from coconut shells, or shell necklaces. It was like Christmas. As you said, sweet surprises.

  5. I enjoyed reading about your dad coming home after being gone for extended times. My dad wasn’t in the military but he traveled a lot of my growing up years. We learned to live with him gone, but the day of his return were unforgettable days! Thanks for the reminder! 🙂

    1. Yes, we learned to live with our dad gone, too, Anita, and grew up a lot while he wasn’t around, as you know. Thanks for your feedback!

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