“Daddy, can you carry this? It’s too heavy.”
My daughter. She trails behind her a sack of what may be books, or maybe laundry. I can’t tell from where I sit. I can, however, tell she’s right. It’s too heavy.
I get up and make my way over, but not before turning the channel on the television. Just in time, too. My daughter craned her neck toward it at just the next moment. She got an eyeful of Sportscenter rather than an eyeful of the latest bloodshed.
I bent down and grabbed her sack—books after all.
“Where’m I taking this?” I ask her.
“To my room.”
I nod and shoulder the load. “Lead on, MacDuff.”
She takes one more look at the television, says “Sorry about the Yankees, Daddy,” and then blazes a path down the hallway toward her room.
“That was Shakespeare, you know,” I tell her. “The MacDuff thing.”
Unimpressed with my literary knowledge, she merely nods and says, “That’s nice.” I know something else is on her mind. Something else is always on her mind. I deliver Harry Potter and the rest of his clan to the safety of her bed, ask her if there’s anything else I can do for her, and park myself back in front of the television.
I push the button on the remote control that says Previous. Sportscenter disappears in a blaze of pixels that reforms into the rest of the evening news.
It’s a habit I’ve repeatedly tried to break, this news watching. I’ve reached the point where I can bear no more and have decided to test the theory that ignorance truly is bliss. Little of what I see on the television is ever felt in my quiet corner of the world. Things here go much as they always have, slowly and with little change. But a part of me feels it is my responsibility to know what’s happening. There is a sense that I must bear witness to these times, if only to pray that God will deliver us from them.
I see a pair of eyes peek at me from around the corner, small eyes full of questions. They grow into my daughter’s face. I push the button again. Back to sports.
“What you need, sweets?” I ask.
She is not, and so walks into the living room and sits beside me. Says, “What were you watching, Daddy?”
“Just some sports.”
“No,” she says. “Before.”
I have the feeling she knows exactly what I was watching, which means I can either lie or tell her the truth. It’s not good to lie to your children. Necessary at times, but still not good.
“I was just watching a little of the news.”
“How come you always turn the news off when I’m around?”
“I don’t know,” I tell her. “You’d probably think it was boring stuff.” It’s a lie. Like I said, such things are necessary at times.
“I don’t think it’s boring. I like to know stuff.”
She leans her head on my shoulder and we laugh at the commercial on the screen. Mine is a tired chuckle, the sort that’s given more out of expectation than genuine feeling. I suppose my thoughts were more on the newscast than the humor. Hers, though? Complete and joyous, a laugh unencumbered.
The laugh of a child.
“You know that sack I carried to your room?” I ask her. “How it was too heavy for you to carry?”
She nods against my shoulder.
“That’s sort of why I don’t like you watching the news. Your sack was too heavy for your muscles, right?”
“Your spirit has muscles, too. Some things on the news, they’re too heavy for you to carry right now. That comes later, when you’re older and stronger. Then you can carry all of that. But for now, I think you should just carry the lighter things. I’ll carry the heavy things for you.”
I kiss her on the head, a sign she understands means that’s all I can stay. My daughter lingers long enough for the commercials to end, then she skips back to her room and her Barbies.
I don’t know if she understands what I’ve just told her. Maybe that is too heavy for her as well. A part of me hopes it is.
My finger rests on Previous, and I realize it’s done so by habit. News, always news. Another set of eyes from the hallway, these the smaller ones of my son. He asks if we can watch cartoons. I tell him yes.
There will be no more news tonight, and I decide that’s a good thing.
Because there are still many things even too heavy for a father to carry.