The first time I read this book, or had it read to me, I was in the second grade. We finished the final two chapters one morning before school, and I had to go in two hours late because it made me feel so much.
People change. We toughen.
Much has happened since I was seven. I'm a man now, in every external way that counts. And when my lovely partner came home from work and said she had to read Where the Red Fern Grows for class, and would I like to read it with her, I wondered if I would feel as much when I reached the end.
Since the second grade, I've held my dog's head while he died. How could two fictional hound dogs compare?
I've earned a degree learning to analyze literature, and I've become a writer, attuning myself to the way the words in a book are assembled, and the ideas behind the words. What if I find out the book was badly written, or I bog myself down in picking it apart and end up entirely incapable of just feeling?
Last night, we finished the book. I learned from my mistakes, so we read it before bed instead of before work. I'm still fighting the heavy dryness behind my eyes, and I know I look like hell.
If I had written the book, yeah, I would have done plenty of things differently. But none of those things matters, because two little red hounds from the pages of a childhood book are still able to reduce me to tears as I write this.
Those two pups answered a lot of prayers and gave their boy and his mama and papa the love, purpose, and direction they needed. Now I'm not saying what they're doing for me right now is on a par with that, but they've brought me back to this project. They're reconnecting me with my words and thoughts. Reminding me that books are meant to be felt first, and perhaps analyzed second, if at all. Refreshing my soul and my tear ducts. And standing as a testament to love as the ultimate human emotion.
If only we all knew so much by the second grade. Thank you, Little Ann, and you too, Old Dan, for reminding me.