When she walked outside from her father's house she immediately came to me and wrapped her little arms around my legs. I knew something was wrong. I whipped my head around and gave her father a look. He just raised his hands in that silly 'I don't know' move.
A few minutes later as we're driving I turned to her and asked, "What's wrong, Little Bit." She shifted sideways in the seat, all humped over, watching the scenery, silent.
"Little Bit, why are you sad?"
She turns, just slightly, and said, "She made me go to my room last night and I didn't get to come out."
I threw a tight grip on my steering wheel. My blood pressure shot up at least fifteen points. "Why?"
She knuckles her eyes, wiping away tears. "Cause she said she needed to get the baby to sleep and when I stays in the room he only looks at me and won't sleeps, Papa."
"And for this she made you go to your room all night."
"You weren't able to come out when your dad came home?"
"I fell asleep, Papa."
We're on the long marshlands stretch of the river. It's beautiful and I always take in the birds and the clouds and that first peek of the rising sun. But this morning it holds little beauty for me.
"Don't be mad, if you gets mad you'll yell at daddy and her and then my tummy will hurt and she'll won't be friendly to me."
I think of my cell phone and how easy it would be to hit my son's number and indeed scream at him. Yet, she has a point.
I've reached over and am holding her hand. I stroke her face and hair and wish I had the ability to make this child's hurt vanish. "What, Sweet Girl."
"I hate that house."
This will be a rough day for me. She's referred to my daughter in law as, her. "Little Bit, please don't say things like that. I know you love your dad and mom."
(Reveal here...between us, okay. My DIL is Little Bit's step-mother. Long story.)
"Yes, Little Bit."
"Please, Papa, can I move in with you and Nana? Please, Papa. I want to live with you."
Oh, Lord, how do you reply to such a question. I change the subject, or at least try. "Little Bit, what did you do while you were in your room?"
"I read my Barbie book. I read the whole book too, Papa."
"Papa, I want to live with you."
"Sweetheart, I'd love it if you lived with Nana and Papa, but you know as well as I that your father won't allow it. Honey, he loves you very much."
Silence. She's shifted back to her staring out the window routine. Then, "No he doesn't."
Then it hits me. She's mad. She's angry only because she had to spend time alone in her room, fell asleep, and didn't get to see her father. He works late most nights.
"Little Bit, are you mad?"
"Did reading help you pass the time while you waited for Sport Model to take his nap?"
"Yes. Like you always tell me, Papa, books are our friends."
We rode in silence for a while. Held hands. She seemed to be 'coming around,' as they say. So I took a chance and asked, "You still want to live with Papa?"
"I love you."
And then we do our silly little thing. I'm sure grandparents and grandchildren world over do much the same.
"I love you, more," I replied.
"I love you, most."
Such is life.
(Note, it has taken me the better part of three days to decide to write this post. I hate to lay bare my soul to such a vast audience, but please understand, I write this for her. Little girls and boys wear their hearts on their sleeves, their emotions are tender, so what a parent or grandparent judge immaterial they find painful. I've since spoken to both of her parents. They lived.)