Sometimes Love Means Letting Go – Part 5

Posted by on Jan 18, 2019 in Roots and Branches, Short Stories, Sometimes Love Means Letting Go | 0 comments

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Sandy was forever grateful he’d talked to his father that day, that he’d swallowed his too‑prickly pride and taken the time to make things right between them, because two days later his da was gone forever.

The next few months passed in a blur of pain and grief. While he’d never been close to his father, losing him still left a gaping hole inside. Watching his mama was worse. Seeing her struggle to make it through each day hurt all the more as he had a dim idea of how lost she must feel—even four and half years later the ache of Raven’s death still hadn’t faded. And we had only known each other for a few years, he thought. His parents had been married for almost thirty.

But what made life nearly unbearable was the realization that he had, for all intents and purposes, lost his only child as well. The few times he’d tried to make friends with her, Rose had made it clear that she had little interest in getting to know this bearded stranger who’d suddenly appeared in her life.

October came, and with it Kat’s birthday. The dining room was full even though just the immediate family was there—Mama and Mr. Jim, Jon and Kat, Sandy, Maggie, and the twins, plus the grandchildren—gathered around the table for a subdued birthday meal.

“Happy Birthday, Mama!” Rose told Kat, handing her a small bowl filled with bright red berries.

“Strawberries? How on earth did you find strawberries in October?”

“I talked to the plants and they grewed them for you, ’cause they’re your favorites and would make you happy.”

“Oh, sweetheart, thank you,” his sister said with quiet fervor, shifting a sleeping Roberta to one arm so she could hug Rose with the other. “But having you for a daughter makes me happy every day, far happier than any strawberries ever could.”

It was more than he could take. Sandy got abruptly to his feet and left without a word.

He found himself in the stable, examining Pete’s tack, and wondering where the hell he might be able to find a job this time. I have no desire to go back north—

Unexpectedly the door to the tack room closed with a loud thud. His head jerked up to see Jim Steele standing there, arms folded, a rocky expression on his weathered face.

Oh joy. Sandy recognized Mr. Jim’s lecture face from many such occurrences.

“How long are you going to keep running?” he asked, voice carefully even.

Sandy didn’t answer.

“Look, I know something about running away from hard situations—I did it myself for years and years. But you know what? It doesn’t solve a dang thing. All it does is hurt the people you love.” He paused, then added soberly, “And your mama doesn’t need any more pain right now.”

“I know.” Sandy was nothing if not honest. “And the last thing I want is to cause her, or anyone else, more pain.” Then he added in a whisper, “But I just can’t stay here, Mr. Jim. I can’t stand the pain of seeing her every day. Every time someone calls her Rose Steele, every time she calls Kat ‘Mama’ and Jon ‘Daddy’—it’s like having a knife plunged into my heart.”

“Wasn’t that what you wanted? For her to be raised as their daughter?”

“Yes! No. I mean, I did. Then. But I also thought . . . I also thought that the pain of being without her would grow less over the years, not that I’d wish every single day that I had stayed with her.”

“You can’t outrun regret, son.”

Well, that’s certainly the truth. Heaven knows I’ve tried.

“And there will always be pain when you love someone. That’s just the way love is. Problem is, when you run away, you miss out on all the happy parts that balance out the painful ones.”

“What happy parts? You’ve seen her! She wants nothing to do with me!” The tears that he’d never allow the other man to witness threatened yet again. He fought them, pushed them back down inside.

“She’s known you what, all of three months? And life’s been crazy around here lately. Give the child some time to get used to you.”

Unexpected hope shot through Sandy. Maybe he’s right. Maybe Rose would grow more accustomed to him with time. Maybe . . . ? Very quietly,  he said, “When I see her run to Jon and snuggle up against him—she radiates bliss. And Jon? You can see how much he loves that girl. It’s everything I dreamed of for her.” He looked up at Jim, body and voice shaking. “Do you truly think some small portion of her affection could ever be mine?

“I do.” The older man’s expression softened. “You can still be a part of your daughter’s life, Sandy. You can watch her grow up, and help her figure out her way in this world. Maybe not as her dad, but definitely as someone who loves her and wants the best for her.”

Sandy was willing to try anything, if it meant he could stay with Rose. He opened his mouth to say as much, and then a thought occurred to him; hope diminished and his mouth twisted. “But what about my too-quick tongue, Mr. Jim? You know how bad it is. What if I say something I shouldn’t? Usually I just end up hurting someone’s feelings. If I say the wrong thing now, I could ruin her life.”

“Well, that’s a valid fear. However, the first step in solving a problem is realizing there is a problem to begin with. Since you’re already aware of your tendency to speak without thinking things through, you’ll likely find—now that there’s something so important at stake—that you can control your tongue better.”

Sandy stared at the other man. “That sounded just like something Da would have said,” he stated bluntly.

His father’s best friend smiled sadly. “I’ll take that as a compliment,” he said before adding, “You’re not alone in this, Sandy. I’ll help, your folks will help, everyone who knows the truth is here to help you. We’ll make it work.”

 

To be continued . . .

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