What does vulnerability look like?
Well, maybe it’s a date on the calendar, penciled carefully in second-grade-boy handwriting. That’s the day the kittens are ready to go to new homes. I knew when I let him find the nest of kittens that this would be a lesson in vulnerability. From the very beginning, he knew the kittens would be given to new homes when they were old enough to leave their mother.
And I knew that between now and then, he would fall in love with them, would name them, would learn all their cute little ways, and that he would try not to cry when the basket was empty.
So knowing this would break his little eight-year-old heart, why would I allow it? Because vulnerability is good. Opening up your heart to love is good. Opening up your heart to the risk of loss is good. Caring for kittens is good. Watching him get sad when he says goodbye is good. .. it means that he knows how to love.
And I’ve learned that I should always be very careful about closing the door on an opportunity to love. Avoid pulling back and closing the door, because the rewards of love always outweigh the pain of loss.
I learned it another time when it would have been easy to pull back. Why did I encourage the girls to build a relationship with the sweet old man, when I could have let the days slip into excuses? Why did I let them eat his oreos, and grow fonder with each package? I knew they would just end up crying at his funeral.
Yes, love hurts deliciously, milk dribbling on chins, memories that last a lifetime — outlasting and outweighing the sniffles at the funeral home.
Vulnerability is unretracted claws digging into his neck as he howls, but how will he howl when I wrench the kittens from his heart?
Well, that was last year, and vulnerability tastes salty like tears, but when they combine with the dribble of milk and the oreos, it’s a salty sweetness that makes for delicious memories.