I'm not quite sure when it was I first realized that the truest love brings freedom. I think it was somewhere between a coffee at Starbucks and the tortuous bike ride up Quality Hill. Yeah – some place in my mind clickin' along around a bend in the road.
I guess that's how it works. Sometimes I'm simply in the midst of my daily routine when those tiny brain cells wander off the train track of daily life and into some fresh field of brightly blooming sunflowers. The brain is a wondrous thing, is it not?
“Maaawwwm. Maawwm? “
It took a while before those relentless calls of my eleven-year-old daughter finally reached my cerebral cortex and pulsated into my sense of presence. Now, don't get me wrong. Honestly, I'm normally right with my daughter, giving her my attention--totally.
Today, however, June 22, was, as usual, always a challenge. It was the first day of summer; the first day of marking another year feeling empty, feeling alone.
“Yes, dearest. Mommy's sorry. What did you need?” (Have you ever noticed that no matter how old your kids are, the only time they want you, I mean really want you, is when they need something?)
“It's getting late. You promised to take me to the pool today. Remember? I wanna play with Allison and Sara.”
“Yes, dear. I remember. Are you ready to go?”
With rolled eyes and a deep sigh, I immediately knew the answer. Bethany yanked up her t-shirt to reveal the customary bright pink swimming suit of nearly every eleven-year-old girl in America. Yep, she was more than ready to go.
“Okay, okay. It won't take me long, sweetie.”
The swimming pool proved to be the usual amusement of dripping bodies in Speedos and squealing preadolescent girls trying to impress their male counterparts in ritualistic splashing/diving modules. For me, those squishy neon swim earplugs worked wonders and offered me a respite from the mayhem.
Cuddling up with my latest novel, I pretended to enjoy the mystery through UV shades, all the while, remembering back to another June 22nd nine years earlier. It was hard not to forget that day – a bright sun-filled day like today – filled with promise, then abruptly emptied of dreams.
At the time, I had an active toddler and a husband who literally lived and loved life to the fullest. He was my deepest joy, my inspiration, my hope for all our tomorrows. He had no idea that morning when he left for work that he would never be coming home again.
So glad those UV shades were hugging my head because tears were spilling. Why on earth did I always let my mind retreat back to that horrible day?
“Aaaahhh!” A rush of adrenaline swept over my now drenched body as a giggly little girl stood over me, holding a recently emptied bucket. My first thought was Man, I sure hope that bucket wasn't one of those dirty water buckets the cleaning staff use in the bathrooms.
It wasn't just salty tears and heartaches that engulfed me. It was the years of regret for Bethany who never really knew her beautiful father . . .
“Bethany . . . aren't you something?” More giggles. “It's time to leave, isn't it?”
I grabbed her around the waist, squeezing another giggle out. “Well, we'd better go, huh? How about some ice cream?”
“Sure, Mom. Sounds great.”
“Good. I think it's time we had a talk. It's time you knew the truth about your dad—how he lived . . . and how he died.” That last part caught in my throat, barely escaping in a thin whisper.
Bethany's aqualine eyes, identical to her father's, peered back at me—full of curiosity.
Ice cream can cover a multitude of sins or at least pave a rough road of memories. Bethany had only been two years old when David died so she had no memories of the man I loved. And, I realized, now it was time to share the man with his daughter, to be true to his love and his life.
True love brings freedom echoed in my heart. It refreshes, renews, exhilarates the soul. In fact, it's like gazing into the color-filled ambiance that is a field of sunflowers.
“Bethany, your dad, David Willoughby, was the love of my life, my true love, and he and I will love you forever.”
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