Sometimes Love Means Letting Go – Part 6

Posted by on Jan 21, 2019 in Roots and Branches, Short Stories, Sometimes Love Means Letting Go | 1 comment

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Mr. Jim was as good as his word. Sandy was included into life at the Sixty Seven far more easily than he’d expected. In fact, as the responsibility for running the ranch settled even more firmly on Jon and Kat’s shoulders, he found himself spending a great deal of his time and energies wrangling an adventurous gaggle of youngsters.

The eldest were of course Rose and Jackson. Jordana—Rafe and Rachel Marshall’s daughter—was a year younger than those two. Her brother David was two years behind her. Roberta was the baby of the group, born just a few weeks after Da had died.

Jackson was as open and outgoing as a boy could be, and a natural-born leader. He had accepted Sandy into the family almost immediately, and Jordana and Davy followed his lead in that matter. Little Roberta had never known a time when her Uncle Sandy hadn’t been around. Only his own daughter had been slow to warm up to him, but to Sandy’s great relief and delight, Mr. Jim had proved right—by Christmas she’d started softening towards him. By the following spring Rose was interacting with him the same way she interacted with her other uncles, and treating him no different than how the other children treated him.

“You’ve got quite the little flock there,” Rafe laughed one day a few summers later, watching the children trailing after Sandy doggedly. “I’ve seen mama ducks with less devoted ducklings.”

I suppose “flock” is a rather apropos designation, Sandy thought with some humor, since I call them all by bird names.

The whole bird thing had started when he’d impulsively called his daughter “Chickadee” one day. She’d wrinkled up her little nose at him, which of course made him call her it more and more often. Because she’s adorable when she’s annoyed.

“But why a chickadee?” she finally demanded of him. They were sitting side by side on the front porch on a late spring afternoon. “Why not a jay or a crow or a raven? You know, a bird I can actually talk to.”

Immediately he thought, I could never call you Raven, even though I can see her face in yours. But all he did was grin at her. “Why a chickadee? Because you’re little and pert and always wearing a black cap,” he teased, tugging on one black braid.

“Why a bird at all?”

“Why not? We already call Roberta Robin—”

“And Birdie,” she interrupted. Though a mere six and a half years old, Rose insisted on factual accuracy in everything, no matter how small. Sandy could see his sister’s raising in that.

“And Birdie,” he agreed. Then he stroked his beard with dramatic thoughtfulness. “Hmm . . . maybe I should come up with birds for the lot of you.”

Rose clapped her hands excitedly at that suggestion. “Oh, that’d be perfectly perfect! I shan’t mind you calling me a chickadee then! Can I help?”

“Absolutely.”

After much discussion and argumentation, they finally settled on Bluejay for Jackson, “Since he’s got eyes as blue as a jay, and because I can tell him what to do,” Rose decided; Lark for Jordana, “Because she likes to sing and she’s all yellow;” and Screech for Davy: “Because he’s got big eyes like an owl,” Sandy said. “Because he’s loud and screechy too,” Rose added.

Then she turned and looked at him closely. “Can I give you a bird name? Sometimes I don’t like calling you Uncle Sandy. Is that really your name?”

He smiled. “No. My real name is James Anderson Black. James is for Mr. Jim and Anderson for your Grandma Dani’s folk. But when your mama—” he broke off in a hurry. Thankfully, Rose’s Truth-Sight wasn’t the most reliable of Talents, and when she didn’t react to his untruth, he continued, albeit more cautiously. “When Kat was quite small, she couldn’t pronounce James Anderson very easily, and she turned it into Sanders, and then Sandy.” He paused. “You certainly can give me a bird name if you like, but why don’t you like the name Sandy?”

“Because Aunt Maggie used to have a big red rooster she’d named Sandy and he was the angriest, meanest thing ever. He used to chase me all around whenever I had to go gather eggs, no matter how much she yelled at him and told him to behave. I hated that roo, and I don’t hate you.”

Sandy couldn’t help himself—he burst in gales of laughter. “A rooster? She named a blooming chicken after me?” Still laughing, he allowed, “Though I suppose I deserved that, after all the years I teased her about being named after Mama’s favorite pony.” Quieting, he looked to Rose. “Okay, then, Chickadee. You come up with a bird name for me.”

She studied him for a few minutes, head tilted to one side, then patted his reddish brown hair. “Hawk,” she pronounced.

He reeled back inside, feeling as though he’d been struck. “Why Hawk?” he asked, voice unsteady.

“Because you make me think of a red-tailed hawk.”

Raven had said much the same thing to him, one of the first times they’d really talked to each other, and for nearly five years it was all she ever called him when they were alone together. How? How did you know?

Rose was still speaking. “You really do, you know. Well, except you have blue and brown eyes like me, not plain brown like a hawk.” Then her voice grew worried. “You don’t like it. Is that why you’re so quiet all of a sudden?”

He opened eyes he didn’t remember closing. “No. It’s not that at all. It’s just that someone else used to call me Hawk, a long time ago. I was thinking about her, and how much I still miss her.”

“I can pick a different name then, if it’s already someone else’s special name for you.”

He took her hand gently in his. “She wouldn’t have minded you calling me that. In fact, I think she’d be very happy if you did.”

“Oh good.” She snuggled up against him contentedly.  “You know what, Uncle Hawk?”

“What?” Uncle Hawk. I like that.

“I like you best now,” she declared, then paused, face thoughtful. “Well, not more than Daddy,” she clarified. “But definitely best after him.”

At first her words hurt tremendously, until he stopped and thought about it. Rose was especially close to Jon. That she considered “Uncle Hawk” a close second to her favorite parent—that wasn’t a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all, he decided as he hugged her tight. I . . . I can live with that.

 

To be continued . . .

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One Comment

  1. Keep the story coming! I am loving it so far!

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