Happy endings

Not every story has a happy ending.

Thank God for that, for this world would be painfully predictable if it worked that way.

“I don’t know how it’s going to end,” a woman would say to her husband of 40 years from inside their car, freefalling from 2,000-foot cliff, “but I know it’s going to involve leprechauns sliding down rainbows, jelly beans and a trampoline that came out of nowhere.”

Nope. None of that.

Happy endings are relatively difficult to come by, in all reality. Oftentimes people deserve to win, own the right to succeed and should – according to the overwhelming majority’s opinion – be rewarded for their persistence with the luscious taste of victory.

But adolescent cancer patients die. A child from a single-parent home gets shot in a drive-by a day after he graduates from college. A mother gets away with murder. Sad endings abound – and that’s why the closing of every real-life drama that’s none whatsoever short of appropriate, deserved and absolutely beautiful needs to be appreciated.

I’m experiencing one right now, actually (although it’s hardly as dramatic as I may have insinuated). Kalista’s kitten is coming home tonight. That’s good news for the cat, obviously, but also a nearly excellent ending to a practically tragic time in my daughter’s five years on Earth.

Tonight I was at my mom and dad’s house to finish some yard work leftover from Sunday. I finished with the trimmer near the back porch, where my dad sat in the chair. Beneath our conversation – almost like an ambient rhythm of chirping in the background – was Kalista on the swing set in the back corner of the yard.

I looked up the hill where she swung, nearly accidentally with her bare feet barely above the blades of freshly-cut grass, and watched her gaze over the fence toward the neighboring churchyard. I couldn’t make out what she was saying, but the tone was glum and her face looked tormented.

I made out something about Mittens – the kitten I’d spent a weekend telling her, as delicately as I could, might not come home.

She seemed to understand, but in some “tough” way – a mannerism I wasn’t entirely comfortable with her knowing how to apply. “It is life,” the look on her face seemed to say the night I told her about the 3-month-old cat being gone, “and life doesn’t always go your way.”

She’s not 6 yet. She has no mother. Her father’s too busy making a life to take her to theme parks. It’s been hard to keep friends, for whatever reason, and her dad’s lousy at keeping in touch with family.

It is life. It doesn’t always go her way.

But this time – yes, this time – it went as well as she could have imagined.

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