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FLOODGATES OF LOVE

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PLOP! A TEAR FELL FROM HER WET HAZEL EYES, LANDED ON THE THIN NOTEBOOK PAPER, AND SPREAD LIKE A DISEASE ACROSS THE SURFACE. SHE STILL REMEMBERED THE DAYS WHEN HER BIGGEST WORRY WAS WHETHER SHE WOULD GET ASKED TO PROM OR NOT, BUT THOSE DAYS WERE LONG GONE. SHE HAD THOUGHT SHE HAD KNOWN WHAT SHE WAS GETTING INTO. THE TRUTH WAS, HOWEVER; SHE HAD NO IDEA. SHE HAD SPOKEN WITH THOSE BRAVE AND COURAGEOUS WOMEN WHO HAD SURVIVED THE PAIN AND WORRY. SHE HAD HEARD ABOUT THE TERRIBLE FEELING OF GOING TO SLEEP AT NIGHT AND ONLY FEELING A COLD SHEET NEXT TO YOU. SHE WOULD WONDER WHERE HE WAS SLEEPING; IF HE WAS SLEEPING AT ALL. DID HE MISS HER? EVERYONE REASSURED HER SAYING THAT OF COURSE HE DID, BUT HE WAS BUSY AND PROBABLY DIDN’T HAVE A LOT OF SPARE TIME TO THINK ABOUT HER. THEY WOULD THEN SMILE THAT BIG, FAKE SMILE. THEY HAD NO IDEA WHAT SHE WENT THROUGH. THEY WOULD NEVER KNOW SUCH FEAR.

HER FATHER HAD ALWAYS TAUGHT HER TO BE BRAVE. HE HAD ALWAYS TOLD HER, “KARA, IT’S OK TO BE SCARED, BUT ALWAYS HAVE ENOUGH COURAGE TO MATCH YOUR FEAR.” SHE HAD ALWAYS BELIEVED HIM WITH UNQUESTIONING REVERENCE, BUT IT WASN’T SO EASY NOW. WHEN SHE HAD BEEN LITTLE, SHE HAD ONLY HEARD ABOUT COURAGE IN FAIRY TALES AND STORIES, AND IT HAD SEEMED SO EASY. THE BRAVE PRINCE ALWAYS CAME JUST IN TIME TO SAVE THE PRINCESS, BUT NO ONE EVER TOLD WHAT HAPPENED IF THE PRINCE COULDN’T COME TO RESCUE THE DAMSEL IN DISTRESS. HOW DID THE STORY END IF HE WAS FORCED TO LEAVE AND COULDN’T COME TO HER AID? SO IT WAS WITH HER…HE COULDN’T COME TO HER RESCUE NOW. SHE WAS ON HER OWN, EXCEPT FOR A PICTURE, A LETTER, AND A MEMORY. THERE WAS NOTHING REAL, ONLY REMINDERS OF THE FACT THAT HE WAS IN CONSTANT DANGER. SHE COULD DO NOTHING ABOUT IT, AND SHE FELT LIKE SHE WAS DYING BECAUSE OF IT.


SHE GLANCED DOWN AT THE TEAR STAINED PAPER ONCE MORE. IT TOLD HER MANY THINGS. SHE WAS SO GLAD TO RECEIVE IT, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, IT BROUGHT HER GRIEF. THE LITTLE SCRAP OF PAPER ASSURED HER THAT HE WAS ALL-RIGHT, AND THAT EVERYTHING WAS GOING WELL. SHE GRIMACED AT THE PAPER. WHAT A LIE. HE COULD NOT BE ALL-RIGHT. HOW DID WAR “GO WELL”? OF COURSE, HE DIDN’T WANT HER TO WORRY. SHE KNEW THIS WAS HIS WARPED LOGIC. HOW COULD HE THINK THAT BY TELLING HER IT WAS OKAY, SHE WOULD STOP WORRYING? BUT HE HAD MEANT WELL, AND SHE KNEW HE JUST WANTED TO PROTECT HER. HE WAS NOT TO BE BLAMED.


HE HAD ALSO SHARED SOME ABOUT A FRIEND HE HAD MADE. HE WAS A YOUNG BOY, NO OLDER THAN TWENTY. APPARENTLY THE BOY WAS FROM JERSEY. HE SAID THE YOUNG MAN TALKED FUNNY, AND THAT HE WAS QUITE THE JOKESTER. HE CLAIMED THAT HE BROUGHT HIM JOY AMID THE DEVASTATION. HE ALSO SAID THE BOY REMINDED HIM OF HER, AND HOW SHE COULD MAKE HIM SMILE EVEN WHILE HE WAS DOING THEIR TAXES.


THIS LAST COMMENT MADE HER LAUGH. HOWEVER, IT CAME OUT AS MORE OF A SOB, BECAUSE OF HER WET NOSE AND TEARY EYES. IT WAS TRUE; SHE HAD ALWAYS BEEN ABLE TO MAKE HIM LAUGH, NO MATTER WHAT WAS WRONG. HE SAID IT WAS BECAUSE OF THE JOY THAT SEEMED TO OVERFLOW FROM HER VERY DEMEANOR. HE SAID THAT HE NEVER KNEW WHERE IT ALL CAME FROM, AND THAT IT NEVER RAN OUT. SHE WONDERED IF SHE STILL HAD IT.


THE LAST PART OF HIS LETTER WAS WHAT TRULY TORE HER APART. HE CLOSED THE LETTER BY ASKING FIRST ABOUT HIS LITTLE ANGEL. HE SAID HE HOPED SHE WAS DOING WELL, AND ASKED IF SHE HAD LEARNED HER ABC’S YET. HE ADDED THAT HIS FRIEND HAD A LITTLE SISTER, AND THAT SHE WROTE HIM LETTERS ONCE IN A WHILE ALL BY HERSELF. HE WONDERED IF THEIR LITTLE GIRL COULD HELP HER WRITE HIM A LETTER. HE SAID HE WOULD LIKE THAT VERY MUCH. HE FINISHED BY SAYING THAT HE LOVED HER MORE THAN ANYTHING, AND HE HOPED THAT SHE KNEW AND REMEMBERED THAT.


BY NOW THE PAPER WAS LIMP AND MOIST. SHE CLOSED HER EYES TIGHTLY, FORCING THE TEARS THAT CLUNG TO HER DARK EYELASHES TO ROLL DOWN HER DAMP CHEEKS. SHE SAT THERE FOR A MOMENT, EYES CLOSED TIGHTLY, ROCKING SILENTLY BACK AND FORTH ON THE COFFEE TABLE WHERE SHE SAT READING HIS LETTER. SHE THOUGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING SHE HAD BEEN THROUGH IN THE TIME HE HAD BEEN GONE. THE THOUGHTS TUMBLED THROUGH HER MIND IN A DISJOINTED FASHION AS SHE REMEMBERED VARIOUS THINGS THAT HAD HAPPENED.
SHE THOUGHT BACK TO A FEW DAYS AGO. HER DAUGHTER HAD BROUGHT HOME A PICTURE SHE HAD DRAWN DURING ART TIME. SHE HAD LISTENED HAZILY, AS THOUGH IN A DAZE, AS HER DAUGHTER EXPLAINED THE PICTURE TO HER. SHE SAID THAT THEY HAD BEEN ALLOWED TO DRAW WHATEVER THEY WANTED, AND THAT SHE HAD DECIDED TO DRAW HER DADDY. SHE SAID THAT SHE WANTED TO DRAW HIM BECAUSE SHE MISSED HIM, AND BECAUSE HE WAS THE BRAVEST MAN IN THE WORLD.


TEARS HAD FILLED HER EYES AS SHE LISTENED TO HER DAUGHTER’S SIMPLE, BUT ENTIRELY ACCURATE WAY OF DESCRIBING WHAT SHE FELT ABOUT HER DADDY. SHE DID NOT KNOW IF HER DAUGHTER UNDERSTOOD WHERE HER DADDY WAS, OR WHY HE WAS THERE. THE LITTLE 4-YEAR-OLD CLEARLY UNDERSTOOD THE SIMPLE TRUTH, THOUGH, THAT SHE LOVED HER DADDY, AND THAT HE LOVED HER. HER DAUGHTER’S SIMPLICITY AND FRANKNESS ALWAYS ASTOUNDED HER, NO MATTER WHAT SHE WAS TALKING ABOUT AT THE TIME. HER WILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT THINGS, AND THEN CONTINUE TO LOVE WITH ALL HER HEART, WAS SO REFRESHING. SHE WISHED SHE COULD FORGET ABOUT ALL OF THE COMPLICATIONS AND HAVE THAT CHILD-LIKE FAITH THAT HER LITTLE GIRL POSSESSED SO EFFORTLESSLY, THE TRUST THAT EVERYTHING WOULD BE OKAY.


SHE ALSO REMEMBERED AN EXPERIENCE PREVIOUS TO THE LAST ONE. SHE KNEW THAT THIS WOULD STICK IN HER MIND FOREVER, NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENED. SHE HAD BEEN AT THE GROCERY STORE, PICKING UP SOME MILK AND LUNCHABLES FOR HER DAUGHTER WHEN OLD MRS. FARLAND HOBBLED BY. SHE SAW THE ELDERLY WOMAN AND MUTTERED A SHORT GREETING TO HER. MRS. FARLAND, HOWEVER, INSTEAD OF RETURNING HER FEEBLE HELLO WITH THE LIKE, STOPPED. THE OLD WOMAN SHUFFLED OVER TO WHERE SHE WAS STANDING, TRYING TO DECIDE WHETHER TO GET HAM OR TURKEY, AND PUT HER DELICATE HAND ON HER SHOULDER. THE WOMAN LOOKED UP INTO HER SLIGHTLY SHOCKED EYES AND JUST SMILED. SHE LOOKED AT THE OLD WOMAN CURIOUSLY, WONDERING WHAT WAS WRONG WITH HER, OR WITH HERSELF. MRS. FARLAND OPENED HER MOUTH AND SIMPLY SAID, “KARA, YOU GROW MORE BEAUTIFUL EVERYDAY. YOU KNOW, IT’S GOING TO BE OK.” AND WITH THAT, SHE REMOVED HER BONY HAND, AND WENT BACK OVER TO HER CART. SHE GAVE IT A PUSH AND CONTINUED DOWN THE AISLE.


SHE STARED AFTER THE WOMAN, HER MOUTH SLIGHTLY AGAPE. WHEN SHE CAME TO HERSELF, SHE THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT THE ELDERLY WOMAN HAD SAID. SHE WONDERED HOW THE WOMAN HAD KNOWN WHAT SHE HAD BEEN THINKING ABOUT. OF COURSE, SHE RARELY THOUGHT OF ANYTHING ELSE, BUT HOW THE WOMAN WAS TO KNOW THAT, SHE HAD NO IDEA. MAYBE IT WAS A SORT OF INTUITION THAT GOT BETTER AS ONE GREW OLDER. AT ANY RATE, SHE WAS THANKFUL FOR IT. THE WOMAN HAD MANAGED TO CATCH HER AS SHE WAS FALLING, AND SHE PULLED HER RIGHT BACK UP ONTO SOLID GROUND. SHE KNEW THAT THE WOMAN HAD BEEN IN HER POSITION BEFORE. HER HUSBAND HAD DIED IN KOREA. YET MRS. FARLAND WAS ONE OF THE STRONGEST WOMEN SHE KNEW. SHE HAD KNOWN THE WOMAN SINCE SHE WAS A LITTLE GIRL HERSELF, AND SHE HAD NEVER SEEN HER SHED SO MUCH AS A TEAR. AFTER HAVING BEEN THROUGH SO MUCH, MRS. FARLAND WAS IN BETTER EMOTIONAL SHAPE AT SEVENTY-EIGHT, THAN SHE WAS AT TWENTY-NINE. SHE WAS A TRULY REMARKABLE WOMAN.


AS SHE REMEMBERED THESE INSTANCES, A SMALL SMILE CREEPED ONTO HER FACE. EVEN THOUGH THE TEARS STILL RAN STEADILY DOWN HER ROSY CHEEKS, SHE FELT A LITTLE MORE HOPEFUL. SHE LOOKED AT THE WET LETTER AGAIN. SHE FROWNED SLIGHTLY AT A PLACE WHERE THE INK HAD SMEARED. SHE TRIED TO DECIPHER THE WORD. WHEN SHE DID, A FEW MORE TEARS ESCAPED FROM BEHIND THE FLOODGATES OF HER HAZEL EYES. THE WORD WAS “LOVE.” SHE READ THE SENTENCE IT WAS IN FOR A SECOND TIME. IT READ, “I LOVE YOU MORE THAN ANYTHING.” SHE GAVE A LITTLE SMILE. SHE KNEW THIS WAS TRUE. THE DAYS, WEEKS, AND MONTHS WERE GOING TO BE HARD, BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE. SHE WOULD BE OKAY, AS WOULD HE. SHE KNEW SHE MUST HAVE THE FAITH AND INSIGHT OF A NAÏVE LITTLE GIRL, AND THE STRENGTH OF SOMEONE WHO APPEARED OLD AND FRAIL.


SHE HEARD THE DOOR OPEN AND THEN SLAM SHUT. HER DAUGHTER’S SWEET, LITTLE VOICE ECHOED THROUGHOUT THE HOUSE AS SHE CALLED FOR HER MOTHER.


SHE KNEW IT WOULD BE ALRIGHT AS SHE WIPED HER TEARS, SMILED, AND CALLED BACK, “I’M IN HERE, DARLING.”

THE LITTLE GIRL CAME SCAMPERING IN, SAYING EXCITEDLY, “MOMMY, I DREW ANOTHER PICTURE!”





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