Father and Son

   His face was a sullen, resentful storm: the anger of a little boy who felt he was too old to admit his heart was breaking. He didn’t understand why Uncle Ken and Caelynn were leaving. He didn’t want to be there, holding back angry tears while Mom and Dad were taking turns hugging and kissing Caelynn and telling Uncle Ken goodbye. They were sad about it too, and Mom kept wiping away tears. It was alright for her to cry since she was a girl. But even Dad wiped a hand over his eyes, and that made Lincon even more confused and sad. He scowled harder.

   There were more hugs, more kisses. Uncle Ken stooped down to talk with him, promising that he would be back if Lincon ever needed him. Uncle Ken hugged him tightly and Lincon felt tears welling in his eyes. He couldn’t let them see him cry — he was almost 9 — he wasn’t some little kid! So to save his almost-9-year-old dignity, Lincon pulled himself from Uncle Ken’s arms and ran off.

   Hiding in the lemon grove, Lincon pressed his fists to his eyes as if he could literally fight back the tears. He heard the sound of an approaching car and quickly popped his head up to watch Uncle Ken’s car drive past. He thought he saw Uncle Ken’s eyes turn to him but wasn’t sure. He was sure, though, that Caelynn saw him and waved excitedly as they started up the hill to leave Arion forever.

   “It isn’t forever, you know.” Dad’s voice came from behind him and Lincon felt the comforting weight of Dad’s hand on his shoulder. Lincon was pretty sure Dad could read minds.

   “Why are they leaving?” Lincon’s voice trembled and he was afraid he’d start crying again — he didn’t have anywhere besides the lemon grove that he was allowed to go when he ran away, so he tried to fight back the tears. “Everybody is sad that they are leaving. Nobody wants them to go.” He clenched his fists. “It’s not right!” He felt the tingle of energy building up with his anger and tried to take deep breaths to calm down just like Dad had taught him.

   Dad felt the energy tingle, too. “Come with me,” he gently urged Lincon to walk with him towards the southern edge of the valley. Dad showed him a narrow, worn path that wend around trees and bushes as they climbed the valley wall. The path led to a small alcove in the stone wall. “This is Uncle Ken’s spot,” Dad explained. “Whenever he felt sad or troubled or just wanted to think, he would come here. He and I are the only ones who know about this place.”

   Lincon looked up to has father, his eyes bugging that his dad was revealing a secret hide-out to him. His anger dissipated and he felt the itchy tingle fade away with it, but the boy still didn’t trust himself to not cry and quickly cut his eyes away from Dad.

   Dad sat down on the hard-packed dirt and patted the ground next to him. Lincon dutifully sat down next to his father. “It’s ok to feel sad, Linc. It’s ok to cry. And it’s ok to want to be alone when we’re upset. That’s why Uncle Ken would come here. He thought maybe you could take care of it for him while he’s away.”

   “But if everyone is sad, why is he going away?” Lincon’s voice was petulant with incomprehension. “Even he’s sad about it. Why’s he doing it if it makes everyone’s unhappy?”

   Dad put his arm around Linc’s shoulders and hugged the boy to his side. “Saying goodbye to them makes my heart hurt. You’re right that none of us want it — especially Uncle Ken. But going away from here is the best thing for Caelynn right now. Protecting her is more important than us feeling sad.”

   Lincon nodded, starting to understand. “Like when you say you gotta help people against the bad guys? You do it cause it’s the right thing to do.”

   Dad ruffled Lincon’s hair. “That’s a very grown-up way to look at it,” he smiled proudly. “Sometimes doing the right thing will make us sad. But knowing that we’re doing the right thing and helping someone else helps us not feel so bad.”

   Lincon threw his arms around his dad, hugging him so tightly he nearly knocked Dad off-balance. Burying his face in his chest, the boy cried wracking sobs.

   Rett hugged Lincon gently, protectively, and fought his own tears and trembling voice as he tried to comfort his son. “I promise, sweetheart, the hurt will fade. Have faith in doing the right thing and the sadness will pass.”

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