Rod Dreher

lucas and ruthie.jpg
Last night, on our final night in Louisiana, I came into our bedroom to find Nora lying in her little mattress on the floor, staring at the ceiling, scowling — this, a half-hour after we’d put her to bed.
“What’s wrong, baby?” I said.
“No, something is wrong. Are you upset?”
“Are you sad?”
I laid down on the floor next to her mattress, and put my head next to hers.
“Is this because you love your family down here?”
“Yes!” she cried, and threw her right arm around my neck, buried her head in my neck and wept.
So it was a hard goodbye after a great week, a week that ended with a family reunion of all the cousins, hosted by our cousins Andy and Nancy. This week was about the kids getting to visit with Aunt Ruthie, and seeing that even though she’s really, really sick, she’s still Aunt Ruthie. Lucas, pictured above in a tearful final embrace with Ruthie before we drove to the airport this morning, is the one of my three children who is closest to his aunt. He is six years old. Not a night goes by that he doesn’t ask his mother or his father about Aunt Ruthie, and cancer, and whether or not she’s going to live. In Louisiana this past week, every morning he woke up early and ran to the road to get the morning paper, and deliver it to her. He spent every spare moment at her house. This morning he asked his mother and me if he could take Ruthie her paper. Fine with us, we told him, but Aunt Ruthie might be sleeping, so be careful.
“OK,” he said. “I’ll just open the door and put the paper inside the door.”
To our great lack of surprise, the boy didn’t come home for an hour. Ruthie told me on the phone tonight that this morning, he padded softly down the hall to her darkened bedroom, newspaper in hand, and poked his head in. “He told me that he listens to hear if I’m coughing, and if he does, he knows I’m awake,” she said. “He brings me my paper, asks if I want a Popsicle, anything I want. My buddy takes care of me.”
This morning he climbed into bed with her again, and stayed close for as long as he could. I know that sweet boy well: he’s thinking that if he can be there to take care of her, nothing bad will happen.
That kid is golden. All my kids are. All my family is.
UPDATE: I put him to bed about an hour ago, him sobbing and keening, “Why did we have to leave?! I want to stay there. I love them so much,” etc.
There is nothing more tender or more pure than the love of a child.

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