Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Telling the kids

They are 6 and 9. N has met my father a total of three times, the first of which was the day he was born and my father, more engaged in my life at the time than he had been in many years or would be for many years hence, had flown to LA from New York to try to be there for the birth. Em has seen him maybe a single handfull of times. Neither of them is likely to see him before this is all over. They do talk to him on the phone once or twice a month, but that could easily be finessed if you didn't want a kid to know what was going on behind the scenes

Given this, I'm sure there are many people who wouldn't have chosen to tell them about their grandfather's terminal illness. I'm also sure there are many people who would be able to keep their emotions to themselves, to be careful what they say on the phone when the kids are in earshot, to discuss travel plans and financial issues when they're in school. I am not one of those people. So told they were, with no sugar-coating, because I think it's better for them to think the worst is coming, and soon, and then maybe--just maybe--have something miraculous occur and have him around for more time than they think they will, than to have it go the other way, where they think they might see him for an afternoon this summer as they have the past two years, and then be disappointed when it doesn't happen.

Em, who is 9 going on 39, responded precisely as I thought she would. She cried. She sobbed. She talked about how even though she doesn't get to see him much, he's still her grandfather, and she's going to miss him. Then she cried and sobbed some more. Then, bless her incredible little heart, she told me that she thought I needed to "let it out" myself, that she could see how sad I was, but that I wasn't crying, and I should. I told her it wasn't that simple. We did a lot of hugging. She cried some more. Then she went for a sleepover at her friend C's house. That, in a nutshell, is Em.

N, who is 6 going on, um, maybe 5-and-a-half, came closest to making me cry. He often follows Em's emotional lead, because he doesn't always know what feelings are expected. Baroy and I were expecting him to fake/force cry, trying to get attention away from Em, as he usually does in these instances. Instead, he pushed out his lower lip and furrowed his brow in his classic distressed/angry look, and refused to be held or kissed or cuddled. For N, this is tantamount to refusing to take in a breath of air, to refusing oxygen. At one point, Em was asking a question, and N followed by trying to ask one of his own, but then lost his train of thought, or couldn't come up with the words or something, and began grunting and hitting himself in his head with his fist, angry at his brain. I have literally never seen him do ANYthing like that before. He was really hurting, my little boy. Not that Em wasn't and isn't, mind you, but she does her thing, gets it out, and moves on with her life. N hit himself in the head, gave up, and insisted he wanted to go outside and play basketball while Em and I finished our conversation.

He did come in a few minutes later, however, to ask me if we were going to bury Grandpa Jack, and I almost answered in the affirmative before I realized, in a flash, that he was wondering if we were going to bury Grandpa Jack in a hole in the backyard, the way we did with Buddy the guinea pig a few weeks ago. We ended up having a somewhat surreal conversation about cemetaries and coffins, as well as about what cremation means. Apparently, my born-in-Nazi-Germany Jewish father, having escaped the Holocaust, wants to be cremated. Don't ask.

Two days later, they're both fine. There will be more questions, I'm sure. But for now, they're fine, and dealing. Even N seems to recognize and accept the concept of the finality of it. Yesterday, he announced that he is going to find "the most beautiful rock ever" to give to Grandpa Jack. He doesn't bestow rocks lightly, my boy. It's his way of saying goodbye to Grandpa Jack...and, eerily, a throw-forward to the future, since leaving pebbles on gravesites when you've visited is a Jewish tradition. Perhaps I won't point that out to either him or my father just now, though.

Labels: , , ,

free hit counter