Kara sat staring out the window. Fields of colorful flowers, fluffy clouds scattered across the blue sky. It was all too much- it all reminded her of her father. When Kara was little, her father would take her to places like these. They’d walk hand in hand, or she’d be on his shoulders.
And then, her father passed. Kara remembered it like it was yesterday. Saturday, July 14, 8:03p.m. He was reading her favorite bedtime story, and it would be that last one he read to her. In the morning, he was gone. Just like that.
Kara still had that same bedtime story sitting in her bookcase collecting dust. Just like the other memories of her father. Always in the back of her mind, but never enough courage to bring them back to life.
"Kara, are you in there?"
Kara snapped back to reality. School, friends, chores, dog walking, homework, Mom banging on the door. Yup, the same old life of Kara Brianne Holland. "Yeah, you can come in."
Mom exploded into the room with her phone in her hand. At first, Kara couldn't tell if the phone was vibrating, or her mom's hand was shaking. "Dad's in the hospital, he had a heart attack last night." So it was her hand shaking.
Kara's heart paused like she was going to have a heart attack too. Dad? I thought he was gone. "What do you mean Dad?"
Mom's eyes softened and she dropped her shoulders. Her grip on her phone loosened. "Oh, I'm sorry Kara. I was talking about my father. Your Granddad. I'm so sorry, I didn't realize what I said."
“Kara, you should go see Eagor. He’ll know what to do.” Ava Chandler urged.
Kara sighed and shifted her sitting position. They were at a local park sitting in the sand by a lake eating ice cream. The sky was clear, and it was warm, so why not hang out with your best friend?
“Ava, you know I don’t want to go meet Eagor. You know what people have said about him. I don’t want to go.”
Ava looked away and chewed on her lip. How could she make Kara go see Eagor? It could be their only hope! She turned back and looked Kara in the eyes. “It’s not about wanting, it’s about needing. You need to see Eagor. I’ll go with you.”
Despite her mood, Kara let out a small laugh. “Okay, fine, whatever. Ugh, it’s hard work being best friends with Ava Chandler. She’s so convincing.”
Ava smiled. “Hey, you need me. If it weren’t for me, your bedroom walls would be that boring white color you loved!”
Kara laughed. “Yeah, and now every time someone comes into my room, I want to die from embarrassment. That grayish green is hideous!”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. I like it.”
The next day, Ava pulled up in her car to Kara’s house “bright and early” as she called it. She honked, and soon the not-morning-person Kara stumbled out the front door and into the passenger seat. The Subaru Legacy eased out of the neighborhood and onto the main street of town. They followed it until it was no longer a main street. The fairly crowded town grew sparser and sparser until there were no buildings at all. Only grass, trees, and birds.
Kara shifted in her seat and rolled down the window some. “So,” she started uncomfortably, “how is this going to work? Like… you know I don’t like talking to strangers.”
Ava shrugged. “I’m not completely sure either. I’ve heard he’s a good man, though.”
“Yeah. Eagor is someone who is a stranger, but doesn’t make you feel like one. He’s very hospitable.”
Ava scrunched her eyebrows up and looked at Kara. “How do you know that? You’ve never met him before.” Her last statement hung in the air a little too long. Finally, Ava spoke up again. “Or have you?”
Kara looked out the window and watched the scenery fly past. “What? Oh no, I haven’t. Just have heard stuff from other people and- yeah, that’s it,” her voice trailed off and bit her lip.
Ava glanced suspiciously at her best friend like she was hiding something. “Are you sure? You’re acting a little bit weird right now.”
Kara gave Ava an awkward smile and said “Don’t I always?” She forced out a laugh.
Ava mouthed and okay, then turned the blinker light on. “Here we are, Eagle Drive.” She turned the car onto the dirt road that led up a hill. For five minutes, they slowly climbed the bumpy road until the road became flat. “We’re on the top of the ridge, so we shouldn’t be far. I read some directions this morning.”
Kara nodded her head and looked out the window again. She had mixed feelings about visiting Eagor. He was known to be an old friendly guy, always having visitors, and always had great advice, but some said he was a grumpy guy thinking all teenagers were up to trouble. Well, Kara and Ava were two teenagers- not up to trouble, but still.
Others claimed that he was very friendly and gave shelter to passing travelers. He has been said to take in injured eagles and restore them. When they are ready, people say he loves to watch them fly to freedom.
Kara hoped that Eagor could maybe help her find what she was looking for. She wanted his advice badly, but wasn’t sure if she wanted to meet him in person. Not that she was scared, but Eagor was her… nevermind.
Just like Ava said, soon the little car turned a corner and faced an old, but charming Victorian house. Ava turned off the engine, and Kara sat back in the seat. She sat there for a minute breathing deeply.
Ava looked concerned. “Are you sure you want to do this?
Kara stepped out of the car and looked at Ava. “No, I want to do this. I need to do this.” She closed the door and Ava joined her outside. “Besides, I was reading about him last night and I read that he’s always sitting by his window, so it’s likely he’s seen us. If we leave, he’s going to be curious.”
They stood looking up at the house, before Kara grabbed Ava’s arm and dragged her to the front porch. Kara smiled a real smile and pushed the doorbell. From inside, they could hear the loud tune and footsteps coming down the stairs. The footsteps stopped and then slid more than walked to the door. Kara and Ava stepped back.
When Eagor opened the door. Ava raised her eyebrows and Kara looked at her. The man looked like he was old enough to fall over with a sneeze, but strong and big enough to make the whole mountain crumble if he sneezed. The burly man looked at them both, and led them inside. He sat them down in old leather couches and brought lemonade from the kitchen. Then, Eagor sat down in a loveseat- which he took up all by himself and waited for the girls to talk.
The girls looked at each other and talked in BFF telepathy.
Let me talk to him, Ava.
I thought you didn’t like talking to strangers, Kara. I remember you
saying that on our drive up here.
I know, but please trust me Ava.
Kara, I think… Nevermind, go ahead. Don’t be stupid though.
Okay, don’t look too surprised. Act casual. I’ll answer questions later.
Okaaay, but why would I be sur-
“Um, hi, Great Grandad.”
-prised? Okay, nevermind. I have a reason.
Eagor smiled. “Hi Kara, I never thought I’d actually see you. How old are you now? Fourteen?” He smiled just like any great grandparent would.
Kara smiled back. “I’m sixteen.” There was an awkward pause, so she filled in the silence. “Great Granddad, this is my best friend, Ava Chandler. Ava, this is my Great Granddad, Eagor.”
Ava nodded her head and smiled. “Nice to meet you.” Eagor nodded back.
Kara looked at the massive photos covering the cottage's grayish green walls. Ava giggled and elbowed Kara in the side. Kara rolled her eyes, but giggled too. She didn’t know if the grayish green walls of her bedroom were a coincidence or not. She continued looking at the photos, but her eyes finally rested on one of Eagor and his son. Granddad. The photo next to it had Eagor, his son, and his grandson. Father.
“Great Granddad, did you hear about Granddad?”
Eagor shook his head. “No, tell me.”
Kara looked up at the ceiling as if trying to find the right words. She closed her eyes and brought her head down. “So, I don’t know how to say this, but a couple of days ago, Granddad had a heart attack and now he’s in the hospital, and he’s not doing so hot,” she paused and looked at Eagor, who had his head down.
Eagor didn’t talk much for the next ten minutes. He sat staring and thinking. Kara glanced at Ava and shrugged. They waited for him to say something, but Eagor stayed in silence. Finally, he struggled to his feet and walked over to the kitchen. The best friends looked at each other, unsure of what to do.
“You can come over here,” Eagor said, breaking the silence. His voice boomed through the house, but stayed kind.
Kara and Ava got up and walked to the kitchen. The counters were covered with muffins and sweets. It took all they had to stay controlled. Eagor looked at the girls and laughed at their politeness.
“Go on, eat what you want.”
Kara and Ava thanked him and dug in. They were still polite, and didn’t eat too much, although they wanted much more than they had. When they were done, Ava got an embarrassed look on her face and turned red. “Um, Eagor. Can I- I mean, where is your restroom?”
Eagor laughed. “Ah, don’t worry Ava. It’s down the hall. Take a right. Yup, that’s it.” When Ava left, Eagor set his cup of herbal tea and looked at Kara. “Are you alright? Not talking about your mother or your grandfather, I’m talking about you.”
Kara sighed and looked at the half eaten cookie in her hand. For some reason, she wasn’t hungry anymore. “I could say yes, but that wouldn’t be the truth.”
Eagor raised one eyebrow. “So, no?”
Kara dropped her arm so it was resting parallel to the rest of her body. She looked up into her Great Granddad’s eyes with her moist ones. “It feels like everything I love and care about is slowly leaving me,” Kara said in a shaky whisper. “I don’t know how to explain it. I still have a lot of things I love, but when a loved one dies, a piece of your heart goes with it. When another loved one is stuck in a hospital bed, part of my heart is too. Stuck in a hospital room with the chance of dying.” Kara looked at the floor and continued on. “It’s like for me to be happy, I have to catch a dream. It’s just imagination and all it can do is float inside your head. Or ride on a cloud. Clouds can look solid, but if you got on, you’d just find yourself falling through.”
Eagor nodded. “I know what you mean. My father died, and then my grandson died, and maybe now my son too. It’s hard, it really is.” He looked out a window that was above the sink. “Come with me.”
Eagor took Kara out the back door and to a grassy meadow behind his house. Kara looked around, surprised. There were dozens of eagles tethered to their own perch. Kara looked up at Eagor, hoping to find answers.
“They used to call me Eagle Man, but I didn’t like that name and changed it to Eagor. Eagle Man made me sound like I had magical powers that soothed eagles into tame birds,” he chuckled at the thought. “I don’t, if you were wondering. I’m just a man who has a passion for big birds. Eagles, hawks, falcons. They’ve learned to trust me. And when you have a big enough passion for something, that becomes your life. So, I have spent the past forty-five years dedicated to making sure there are as many eagles out there in the wild as possible.”
The two people stood, watching the eagles hop around and squawk to each other. Kara shifted her glance to another group of a dozen birds a little farther away. “What are those birds, Great Granddad?” she asked. They were quieter and weren’t moving around as much.
Eagor followed Kara’s gaze and led her closer. “These birds are eagles that will soon be ready to fly free again.”
Kara looked back towards where they had come from. “But those eagles aren’t?”
Eagor shook his head. “Some will eventually, but those are the eagles that are too injured to leave. Sometimes forever. They’ll never be able to catch their dream to fly again. To mate and live free.”
Kara nodded her head understanding. “I may never catch my dream. Father will always be gone, and Granddad is likely to go too.”
“To catch a dream is hard and very discouraging, but that doesn’t mean we give up. We can still be happy and find joy in things we are passionate about, like these eagles. I thought I would never be happy again, but I found my passion and I’m a happy man.”
Kara looked out over the forest. “That doesn’t mean my heart will be mended completely. I loved my father and Granddad, and catching my dream seems impossible, but for now, I’m happy,” she hugged her Great Granddad, “with you.”