Heart Exposed

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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It’s often said around here that my daughter got most of what’s on her outside from her mother. Most of the insides come from me. For proof, I will point out that I have neither blond hair nor a fair complexion. She does. Her eyes are blue. Mine are brown. And if you look carefully, you will see that her fingers are both long and thin. Mine are shorter. Yet we share bonds. Like her father, she is quiet and reserved. Quick to laugh, yet given to bouts of melancholy. We both wear our hearts on our sleeves and try to roll up those sleeves so we may appear to be tougher than we are, but we both find they do not stay rolled up for long. Sooner or later, we are both exposed to the world again. And we both profess a love of words, both reading them and writing them. It is this last point that has proven to tether us to something beyond father and daughter and into new worlds with skies that shine with the brightness of story. I will wake up in the morning to find several torn spiral notebook pages on the kitchen table. On it are the scribblings of an eight-year-old who has found the magic in saying something by saying something else. Her tales are full of mystery and princesses. And she will often find at her bedside scraps of paper upon which I have written my own tales, these of wonder and faith. Ours is a symbiotic relationship of the most rewarding kind. Our words bounce off one another and back to our own hearts. Though she would find little interest in the books that interest me, my daughter will often seek out my opinion of the books she buys. Our tastes are similar. We both prefer strong characters and tightly-wound tales. We both long for the delightful and heartfelt. She held up a book while in the store the other day. "Have you read this, Daddy?" The cover showed a smiling boy with his smiling dog, a yellow Labrador. "Yes." "Is it good?" "Very." "Who’s Old Yeller? Is that the dog’s name?" "It is." "Can I read it?" And there lay my problem. Old Yeller was indeed a fine book. My daughter loved fine books, especially ones with yellow Labradors on the cover. But while the story was moving, the tale was a sad one. Maybe too sad for someone who wore her heart on her rolled-up sleeve. "The end is really sad," I told her. "Really sad." "Like…crying sad?" she asked me. I nodded. "Like crying sad." She looked at the cover again—"They look like they’re having so much fun"—and then the back. Then a page. And then she asked again, "Can I read it?" "Okay," I said. That was two days ago. My daughter has been reading diligently since, creeping ever closer to Old Yeller’s death. I’ve been watching her from this chair. She knows something terrible is about to happen, though she’s not sure exactly what. She steels herself. It won’t do any good. Even now I see that invisible sleeve rolling down and that heart exposed. Everything ends. My daughter has an idea of that already, one that produces vague abstractions of casting off from this world so she may weigh anchor in another. She’s fine with that. But she is about to find that not every story ends well in this life. Sometimes the good guys do not win. Sometimes the hero fails. Sometimes the dog dies. A tough lesson, no doubt. But a valuable one. The valuables ones are often tough. That’s why I’m sitting in this chair. Because I know soon she will peer around the corner with tears in her eyes and ask me what I’m doing. I will say not much at all. Then she’ll ask if I’d like it if she came to sit on my lap for a while, and I’ll answer that would be a fine idea indeed. And she will bury her head into my shoulder and say that the dog died. "literature pushes boundaries" photo by Claire Burge. Used with permission. Post by Billy Coffey.