Rock Heart

I still missed my dad, and now here was my step-dad wanting a place in my heart, too. Was there room?

Rock Heart

I know this sounds a little odd just to blurt out, but I got a new father about six months ago. His name is Raymond. Everyone calls him Ray.

“ ’Bye Christy.” My mom stuck her head through the doorway. “I’m off to run some errands. Then I have one more visiting teaching appointment. Don’t forget tomorrow is Father’s Day.”

“Yeah, I know. Hey! Eileen and I are going to the dance tonight. Okay?”

“I see you’re getting your room cleaned. Okay, bye.”

It was just Mom and me until Ray came along. My parents divorced four years ago. I used to see my dad on weekends until after the wedding, when we moved here. Now we live too far for weekend visits. I miss not seeing him as often.

Ray wasn’t the only new member of my family. I now have two little brothers—Jim and Kirt. Jim’s twelve, and Kirt is ten. Believe me, I nearly died when I found out I’d have two brothers. Sometimes they drive me nuts, but usually we have a pretty good time together.

Anyway, I have to think about my problem. It’s Ray. I decided tomorrow is going to be the time when I let him know I think it’s going to be okay between us. I mean, I hated the thought of having somebody take Dad’s place, but it’s okay now. Dad was Dad, but Ray is Ray, and I like him too. I just don’t know how to let him know that.

Ray came to the door. “Christy, how’s the room coming?”

“I’m working on it,” I said with a shrug.

Ray came in and settled on the bed. He never came in here much, so I was surprised. He looked at the shelf above my bed.

“You know, I never had a daughter before you, Christy. Do all girls collect as much stuff as you?”

I giggled. “Sure, I guess. Everything means something special. That’s the glass unicorn I got for my 12th birthday,” I said pointing it out. “And that’s an Indian bead necklace I made at girls’ camp.” I picked it up and showed him the intricate design I had invented.

“Hmmm, nice. You did this yourself?” he said, taking it from me.

“Yeah. The beads are very tiny and scatter everywhere. It’s a lot harder to make one of those than you think.”

“I bet it is.” His eye traveled along the shelf. “A rock? What’s so special about an old rock?”

“It’s not an old rock,” I said, grabbing the rock and suddenly clamming up. I suddenly felt my eyes start to sting like when I’m going to cry.

Ray was quiet for a minute, but he didn’t leave. “I’m sorry. I didn’t say that to upset you.”

“It’s okay,” I said taking a deep breath. “The rock just means a lot to me, that’s all.”

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I’ll understand.”

I hesitated, then I said, “Four years ago, my dad and I took a trip to the beach. We played all day in the sand and waves. When it was almost time to go, he took my hand and we walked along the shoreline. He told me to look for the prettiest rock I could find. After looking and looking, I picked this one. It was round and smooth and had this sort of green spot that reminded me of a heart. See it?”

I pointed it out to Ray. He nodded.

“Dad asked me if the rock would change much if I kept it a hundred years. ‘Of course not,’ I said. He said, ‘Love is like that. It lasts forever.’ Then he told me he was going away and wouldn’t be living with us anymore. He said I should always keep this rock and remember that”—I couldn’t keep the tremor from my voice—“he loves me.”

“I’m glad you have this rock, Christy. Of course he loves you.” He paused. “So do I, you know. I wish …”

“What?” I asked.

“Oh, never mind. Guess I’d better check up on your brothers. When Mom gets home we’d all better have our work done, right?”

“Right.” I watched him leave. He wished … What did he wish? Suddenly I knew. But how could I tell him? Tomorrow had to be the perfect time.

But how? Not a card. He’d think I gave it to him because Mom made me. He’d expect that much. I needed something else, some special gift, to let him really know how I felt.

I thought about my Father’s Day gift all day. While I was getting ready for the dance I decided to kneel down and ask Heavenly Father if He had any ideas for me. When I finished, I glanced up at my shelf, and it hit me. Of course! I closed my eyes and whispered, “Thank you, thank you.” Then I got busy. I had some things to find and a poem to write.

When Mom came in to see if I was ready, she asked me how I felt about tomorrow being Father’s Day and all. I just smiled and told her it would be nice to celebrate it again with her. She looked relieved as she left.

Sunday morning we all got up early and fixed breakfast to take in to Ray. He pretended to be asleep, and we all shouted and woke him up and put the tray in front of him. My mom and the boys all gave him presents.

After they were opened, I pulled out a little leftover Christmas box and handed it to Ray.

He took off the lid. A smile lit his face. He reached in and took out the small flat rock inside, one with a heart lightly smudged with green colored pencil. He glanced down into the box again and pulled out the crumpled paper that contained my poem and read:

Love is like a rock,
Because it lasts forever.
But on the shore are many stones
With which to build a treasure.

“It’s not much,” I faltered, suddenly embarrassed over how dumb it looked beside the other gifts. Mom and the boys were trying to figure out why an ordinary rock was such a neat present.

“But it’s the best present you could have given me!” His eyes met mine in understanding.

He reached over and suddenly pulled me into his arms and gave me a bear hug. “Thank you, Christy, thank you,” he whispered.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Paul Mann