We’re at the doctor’s office, and we’ve skipped breakfast. Moody and tired, we’ve arrived on time. We’ve requested a blood draw for Bear, the first of what we anticipate will be many tests. Today we’re ruling out the small stuff, checking boxes and asking for referrals as we amp up our quest to get to the bottom of our little dude’s quirks. He hasn’t spoken a word since we arrived, but the color in his cheeks tells me his little heart is racing. From my chair, I can see the tears that threaten to spill over. Andy is awake his first morning home since working nights. On the drive over he struggled to be present with me as I ran through my list of questions. But he’s noticed Little Bear’s anxiety. He’s scooped him up, and now they sit together on a paper sheet, awaiting the nurse’s return.

Two weeks ago we met in a different office, and faced what we already knew; the little school that we have loved no longer feel confident that they can provide Huey with what he needs. There is despair, and we walk to the car, holding hands with shoulders slumped. This was supposed to be where they’d keep him safe. This was where they’d love him too. It’s a bitter pill, and it’s going to take some kind of will to choke it down.

In the mornings that follow I meet grief in all it’s guises. It’s brash and unbecoming. It’s there as we string the lights, and as I roll out the dough for our gratitude pies. We wrestle questions we’ve buried deep. Because it’s been easier these past years to stay comfortable. We give voice to dreams and fears, and talk big ideas at night when it’s too late to be awake.

Then tonight, as we travel the country road to Maeve’s piano lesson, we reach a dip in the road flanked by a creek and a trickling waterfall. “This is my favorite part!” says the little doll in the back seat. Bellies tense as we careen down the hill, and Cleo gives her little “Whoop!” as we reach the bottom. For a millisecond we might fly before momentum carries us up the other side.

Mumford and Sons plays on the radio, and I find hope in the memories; of the woman who flew up I-90 in search of a fairy tale, and the man who bought a voodoo doll to grant her wish. Of a little boy who stalked foxholes to make friends, a little girl in a sailboat dress with too-big shoes, her chickens chasing dogs at sunset. These stories I wish to write and remember as we plan our next move, finding again the heart of this family that faces its challenges with a sense of adventure.

Well I know I had it all on the line
But don’t just sit with folded hands and become blind
‘Cause even when there is no star in sight
You’ll always be my only guiding light

The road passes beneath us, stars wink from behind trees, and there is a chill from an open window. I feel a confidence rise up that I’ve missed for too long. I will keep him safe. I will love him.

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