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Words of innocence never fade

“Bye-bye,” she shouted. “You have a good day!”

The words hit me from behind like so many virtuous arrows – straight to the heart.

She is barely 3 years old, yet said those five amazingly simple but sincere words with the innocence of, well, a 3-year-old. It wasn’t just that she said it, but the way she pronounced each word, that really had my attention.

The little angel really meant it.

I was enjoying my normal walk down to the club, just like I have for years, three days a week. Rarely stopping but always making smart aleck comments to the dogs that acknowledge my presence (I swear on Cacioppo’s bible that sometimes they understand). I made a brief departure from the norm and leaned down to pet Prima, whom some of you might recall was voted the coolest dog in the neighborhood last fall.

As we were discussing world events (Prima never argues, just listens), the front door of the house opened and a pink dress, blonde-haired bundle of sunshine named Madison came skipping out to join me with a gigantic smile on her face.

“Prima’s my doggy,” she said with undeniable pride.

“Good morning, sweetheart,” I replied. “Yes, I know Prima’s your doggy. It’s OK if I pet her a little bit, isn’t it?”

“OK.”

In the blink of an eye she squat down beside me, legs crossed in the same “Indian style” position as mine, only her body would not rebel with regret once she arose.

I don’t remember the exact words of the conversation, but I know we covered the colors of Prima’s hair, the color of her hair, the color of my hair (what’s that white stuff?), the snow melting in their front yard, the clouds in the sky, and what her mommy was making her for lunch that day.

After a few minutes I proceeded through the snap, crackle and pop routine of standing.

“Well, I have to go.”

“OK.”

She did not look up in my direction, choosing instead to continue concentrating on her dog, just another care-free child without a concern in the world.

“See you later,” I said.

“OK.”

I was barely 20 feet away when she surprised me with the “You have a good day” comment. She sounded like a much older young lady of at least 10 or so, the words having the sincerity of a maturing schoolgirl to a long-distance grandparent over the phone.

I did not turn around, but giggled at the oft-repeated, rarely meant, phrase. Time moves along much too quickly these days.

“You too!” I found myself suddenly shouting louder than a 44-year-old father should in a quiet family neighborhood.

What an amazing impression little Madison made on me that day.

It wasn’t enough, though, to call her parents, Gerry and Kim, and let them in on the wonderful diction used by their petite darling that morning. It had simply made my day, but certainly not dramatic enough to share.

So I did not.

Two weeks later, the week before last, my wife and I heard the shocking news from a friend of a friend of a friend: It is malignant.

The large lump in Madison’s little head is a tumor, and nothing can make it go away. This sweet, innocent, beautiful little girl that made a man’s day with five little words has been stricken with an incurable disease completely out of the blue. No warning. No heads up. No nothing. Even Prima didn’t have a clue.

Why?

Oh, my God, why?

That’s the ultimate question, isn’t it, right along with the meaning of life and why bad things sometimes happen to good people?

Five little words from a child normally have little significance for most of us. Why this particular morning had such an impact upon me was perplexing at first, but in a very relaxed, life-is-a-beautiful-thing kind of way.

Yeah, I liked it. It was cute. Very. It made me feel good.

But I had no reason to give it more thought or meaning than I did when I told my own children goodbye that very morning as they left for school.

I do now.

Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at poor@vail.net


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