I’ve been crafting her story for three weeks now. That’s the blogger in me: I see a date, a life moment, and it billows into a hurdle and my knees get cramped and my legs get heavy and my head gets cloudy and I cannot find words for days. So I lie in bed and say “Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will write you a story, or a song, or a poem, or a letter.” And tomorrow becomes next Monday and three Thursdays from now. So I had to stop. I had to write it best I could.
A friend of mine once said paper makes you honest. I hunkered down onto my couch with a pen and notebook and got honest for a short hour. Here goes.
I’ve been preparing to lose her for ten or fifteen or twenty years. Give or take. Maybe since the day she wrapped her pudgy fingers around her purple vinyl Pocahontas suitcase and marched to the end of the block. Maybe it was then that I knew she had an inclination, a tendency, an urge to push away from the safe harbor, our driveway and the little yellow house with dark green shutters, and wait for an uncertain future to gift her with adventure.
If she had been alive in 1912, she would have been a fierce Irish girl with poppies of freckles dotting the bridge of her nose and her cheekbones. She would have been a real Rose Dawson. Me, I would have been back in Ireland, peddling on the cobblestone streets. In the last century, nothing much has changed.
He asked me, last week. “You gonna cry?” He said it the way humans do when they fear the answer, the truth, because it’s not such a far shout into the void from a moment they once knew. Empathy spills over them then, hushing their vocal chords with the thick syrup of sadness. It’s all they can do not to say, “I’m sorry. I know. You’re allowed to be sad.”
“I might,” I said. “I just might.”
I did. Cry, I mean. At the end of a long, late night movie, with a dark theatre full of strangers, I praised God for thick blue plastic glasses shielding my face. Because sometimes God blesses you with silent tears, and as long as the world cannot see your eyes, you are fine. You are so very fine.
I saw her on that screen, falling like some Alice in Wonderland to her death. I saw her and I had to let her go. I couldn’t catch her.
We learn that lesson ad nausea – that you cannot save people from themselves, from their enemies, from their brokenness, from their final moments.
A story is circling the globe right now about a boy named Ryan, a boy who ran out into the street to retrieve a Frisbee and was hit by an oncoming car. He died. Ryan with his bright red hair and his big smile, he died. That story could have owned him, but I pray it doesn’t.
I gasped when I learned it. I imagined her, of course, a six or eight or ten-year-old girl, playing on the front lawns of our neighborhood, dashing into the center of the road where a stray Whiffle ball or hockey puck had settled.
She was a wild one, still is, and that story could have owned her, too.
Just before prom, her date admitted he had no intention of taking her. She and her friends scraped together enough funds and a touch of courage to ask a sweet underclassman if he would be so kind as to come with her. He did. I thank him for it. But it was then I started worrying about her – her heart & the real possibility that it would someday be tested.
I had to learn, in the way that Ryan’s parents will never learn, that she won’t always be ready – to have life gut her soul & test her faith, among other things.
She’s sleeping solitarily and soundly in the south now. And I’m not going to cry about it. And I’m not going to worry about her. Because I know that we leap before we are ready and the rest of us, the rest of the people who love her, will just have to follow her lead.
And maybe one day she’ll call – about a white dress and a ring on her left hand – or a job that she only could have dreamed about – or the little shack she’s secured downtown for herself – but for now, we are in different ponds.
That’s how she says it: “We are in different ponds.”
I wish, I always always wish, that someday God will give us the same pond to play in, but most days, I think we got that pond at a time when Barbie and basketball courts and balloon animals made their way into our days. And those are over. That pond is gone.