Shortly after Cameron was born, Dirk visited the house. At that point in time, it belonged to Liz’s parents. Looking back on the visit, Dirk realized Liz’s mother knew Dirk would always be there for her daughter. She greeted Dirk with a sly smile that conveyed her awareness of his devotion to Liz. She said, “You will fall in love with my grandson as soon as you see him.”
Cameron was a tiny, fat-faced, pinkish swaddle wrapped in a blanket with blue giraffes. “You can hold him if you want,” Liz tilted Cameron in her arms. The baby was so light; Dirk feared that he’d forget the child was in his arms, and he’d drop him.
In some ways, he proved his fears true. Liz’s resilience against Dirk’s charm stemmed from the effect Dirk’s absence would have on Cameron. He had dropped the metaphorical baby. Liz was right to be angry with him. Dirk made a promise to himself. When I set things right, I am making it official. Cameron will be my son, too.
Dirk kneeled to get down to Cameron’s level. Then, he wrapped his arms around the boy’s torso and fastened his hand in front of his chest. “At the count of three, I’ll stand. If it hurts, say something, and I’ll stop.”
Dirk spoke in a calm voice he hadn’t known he had. It was as though his commitment to Cameron engendered him with authority. “One day, we’ll be able to laugh about this.”
As Dirk lifted Cameron, the calm seeped through him. A transformation was taking place. Rather than resist it, Dirk gave in to what he supposed was a paternal instinct. At that point in time, helping Cameron recover from his predicament was all that mattered. Again, he spoke with his new voice. “Just give it a little tug.”
Cameron’s body pushed against Dirk as he tensed and pulled. “I think it’s working.”
“There we go,” Dirk responded, encouraging Cameron to see the end result. He would be freed from his predicament. They moved slowly and purposefully. All the while, Dirk prayed that Cameron’s ankle hadn’t been broken, or worse, his attempt to extract the boy caused damage. They were making progress. First, the tongue of Cameron’s shoe appeared from beneath the log. Then row by row, the holes binding the laces emerged as marks of their progress. Once they reached the middle, Cameron set the foot that was free on the log to push off while Dirk pulled. They fell back with the sudden release, landing with an exclamation of “Oof!”
“We did it,” Cameron whooped.
Bentley barked and ran in celebratory circles for their success.
The graying skies in the distance threatened to bring another downpour. Dirk tilted to make it easier for Cameron to lean on him, “Let’s get you home to mom.”
Cameron held on to Dirk’s waist, and the journey back to Liz began. On steady legs, it took fifteen minutes to reach their destination. With Cameron’s hobble, Dirk guessed thirty to forty-five minutes would pass before they made it back to his pickup. Liz was going to be worried.
He hoped she got the message he had left Bryce. Dirk had joined in the search for Cameron. Maybe, she’d see Dirk’s pickup at the park and put two and two together. He pushed the hopes aside and aimed for progress. “If we go slow and steady, we’ll make it home in one piece,” Dirk coached.
The dog ran circles around Dirk and Cameron, pausing to sniff at Cameron’s injured leg and resuming the odd pacing pattern.
Cameron’s voice changed with the cadence cause by the hobble. “Just so you know, Mom misses you.” He paused and quickly added, “I do, too.”
“This won’t make sense until you’re older. I forgot to see what was in front of me.” Dirk admitted. “I’m sorry about that. I never meant to hurt you or your mom.”
“I get it. Being a parent is rough,” Cameron encouraged. “Mom says she lost the book and is winging it.”
“Ha, I didn’t know there was a book,” Dirk joked.
“From what I can tell,” Cameron said, “You do your best. And remember your actions influence people. At least, that’s what Mom says to me.”
Dirk didn’t know it was possible, but his appreciation for Liz and Bryce escalated. He would try to be that person for Cameron.
The moist soil indented with Dirk’s footprints marked their path back to the park, which was a good thing because it afforded Dirk the time to notice the small things around them. When he was younger, the brush wasn’t as tall, and the trees didn’t have as many low branches. For as much had remained the same, even more, had changed. All the while, Dirk and Cameron hobbled in relative silence with Bentley following dutifully behind them.
When they reached the edge of the park, reality seeped into his awareness. An angry mother was a five-minute drive away. “I want you to know, I’ll be here for you. But I don’t want to disappoint you. I don’t know if I can fix what I broke between your mother and me.”
Cameron immediately halted, which jerked Dirk back slightly. “I do it all the time. It’s easier than you think.”
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