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A Life-changing Conversation with a Guy Named Bert

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“I will arise and go to my father.” (Luke 15:18) 

old phone callWe’ve all experienced it countless times. We dial a number; hear the ring tone, and then someone on the other end answers, “Hello.” But this phone call was different. The voice that answered was my father, and we had not spoken in many years.

“Is this Bert Ryle?” I asked.

“Yes it is,” he answered.

“Bert Eugene Ryle?” I asked specifically.

“Yes it is,” he replied, with growing curiosity in his voice.

“Is this the Bert Eugene Ryle who has a son named James?” I then asked pointedly.

He paused for a guarded moment, and then cautiously replied, “Yes it is.”

“Well, dad, this is James.”

There was halting silence on the other end. It was brief, but felt like forever. I could tell that he didn’t know what to say, so I continued, “This isn’t one of those phone calls where you owe me something. I’m not calling to unload on you in any way. I’m grown up; I’m married, and have kids. I’m a father; you’re a grandfather. I’m just calling to see if there’s any chance that we can get together, that’s it. If you say no, you’ll never hear from me again.”

And then I added, “But please don’t say no.”

Dad paused again, and then said, “I think that would be good, son. I’d love to see you.”

It took us a few weeks to plan our trip from Denver to Houston, and two days to actually make the drive. But the knock on that door was the final step in a journey that had taken twenty-six years. Little did I know that once the door opened another journey would begin – and that would be the journey of a lifetime.

I had long carried a question in the back of my mind. I needed an answer, and dad was the only person who could give it.  But we didn’t know each other. All of that was about to change on the other side of that door.

I took a deep breath and slowly let it out, then rang the doorbell. I heard footsteps, watched as the doorknob turned, and looked up to see my father standing there before me. 

He had a face that looked like a basset hound; sad and sagging ever downward. It was obvious he had not laughed in years. He sported a marine crew cut, which went well with his sleeveless t-shirt and khaki pants. And though in his seventies, he still had good muscles and a strong grip. He also had large ears; he looked like a Volkswagen with the doors open. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this what I’m going to look like when I get old?”

(Excerpt from pg.9,10, Released From the Prison My Father Built, James Ryle, 2010) Get Your Copy Today

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