For this author, creative endeavors have been sorely tested by motherhood. But also transformed, and in ways she wouldn’t have imagined – couldn’t have, without her life “rewritten” as it has been, by her children. So linger here, to read all things weaverly, writerly and motherly.

like

Tweet button

Follow me on Twitter!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Once-Upon-a-Tale Tuesday: Death Questions


It was only when Ryan turned seven that he figured out what exactly a graveyard was.

It was the one behind a Catholic church we always drive by on the way to the grocery store. We'd passed it countless times, as it was on the way to just about everywhere we went; besides Stop & Shop, we passed it going to school, to tennis lessons and to their pediatrician for every nasty "pinchy" they'd ever had.

Yet, not once before had either of my boys ever remarked on the funny oblong stone things sticking out of the earth. And I'd happily never drawn their attention to them, as otherwise I love to point out egrets on the local pond or funny dogs people walk.

But Ryan had been in a thoughtful mood when we'd left the house, as again, as I can do, I'd set off all the fire alarms by burning breakfast. Ryan had flown out of the house crying, to stand on the lawn, even though we've had so many false fire alarms, his brother doesn't bother to move from where he's glued to the TV. Ryan was as afraid of dying as he was of throwing up, his most vivid memory of six hours in the emergency room after taking a single bite out of a peanut butter cookie.

Mom, what are those stones? He asked me now.



We were at a red light. Inevitably, every big life question that has come up in the span of their short lives, has come up in the car. Like  what is the hottest planet (Though I did remember that Pluto must be the coldest as it is the farthest from the sun?); what is the biggest thing on earth and what is the smallest? What is the real difference between boys and girls, if girls don't have "pee pees?"

And Im always least prepared for these life questions, my brain more tightly wrapped around some shopping list I am writing in my head.

Are there dead people there?"

Yes, Hon.

Seemed like a very long red light. Sometimes they do get stuck, you know...

So there are bodies there? Under the stones?

Ah. Green light.

Yes, Hon…”

"Is Gramma going to be in a place like that one day? Like under a ... stone?"

I started flexing my fingers on the wheel. "Gramma's really old," I said.

I know she's old," he said, rolling his eyes as only an eight-year-old-going-on-eighteen can, to remind me just how ridiculous his mother can be.

He looked back out the window. When he was little, he would lose himself in more imaginary than death-like thoughts, the Action Spider he would make with his hand to crawl up the pane. "I mean, I just don't want to ever die...."

Everyone dies, Ryan," his six-year-old brother piped up.  "But then you just come back to life again. And that just keeps going on forever…”

I was speechless. And thats fine, since they seemed to be working out this issue between them. Giving me a minutes space to figure out how my six year old had been able to come up with his own conclusion about death.

But then Kenny said something else, this time under his breath.

I asked him to repeat it.

And when you're six, your parents can go away, too." He barely whispered this possibility, as its mere mentioning were an actual omen. "Right, Momma?"

I had to look at him, at them, in the rearview mirror. As I finally had to when I'd had to explain exactly how boys do differ from girls "down there."

And I said: Thats right. They can die too.

My sweet boys were looking at me far more questioningly about this truth than the one about anatomical differences, and  I had to look away from the rearview mirror. I couldn't have been more grateful when we finally pulled into a parking space at Stop & Shop.

"But you know what is even worse? Kenny said.

Ryan and I both looked at him. We both wanted a good answer.

Having two heads.

We were able to get out of the car then. And I was able to remind them of the usual, that coming grocery shopping with me did not mean I would be throwing any extra sugary Lucky Charm boxes or Gummy Bears into the cart.

But pushing the shopping cart around the store, Ryan was unusually quiet, and my heart ached for him; he was mulling over a truth he was just beginning to figure out, and I realized there wasnt really an answer I could have given him about dying much more comforting or truthful than the one his brother gave, about having two heads.

So maybe winding up dumbfounded as a mother isnt so awful. Maybe some of these answers our children can only figure out for themselves, on their own terms, while quietly pushing a shopping cart.


If you like me, vote for me? Prettty please? The little picket fence button above? Just press it? Once? Maybe?



7 comments:

Abracadebra Designs said...

Hey Sandra, after reading that post I think I am going to click on the picket fence a hundred times for you. You certainly do have a wonderful way of telling such thought provoking stories.
-Debbie

Raige Creations said...

ah, death. the inevitable, dreadful question that comes out of your child's mouth when you are most ill-prepared to answer it. It is a difficult topic that most adults have trouble with.
I myself think it WOULD be worse to have two heads.

Michele of By Your Side said...

aww... just have to love those mom moments!! I wish we all had a Kenny.

Spilled Milkshake said...

It's so hard to answer their questions about death. I've learned that, as hard as the questions are when they're six, it's even harder to explain when they're teenagers and their friend is killed in a senseless accident or from cancer. Death can be difficult to understand sometimes, and even harder to make our children understand. Never an easy topic, but you handled it gracefully.

I busted out laughing about you burning breakfast lol! As always, your writing is amazing - making me laugh out loud and giving me pause for thought all at once! :)

Spilled Milkshake said...

It's so hard to answer their questions about death. I've learned that, as hard as the questions are when they're six, it's even harder to explain when they're teenagers and their friend is killed in a senseless accident or from cancer. Death can be difficult to understand sometimes, and even harder to make our children understand. Never an easy topic, but you handled it gracefully.

I busted out laughing about you burning breakfast lol! As always, your writing is amazing - making me laugh out loud and giving me pause for thought all at once! :)

Grumpy Grateful Mom said...

Those death questions can be hard to answer. My six-year-old is my death questioner. Though she went to a funeral this week and didn't have any questions. I suppose that's good.

And ya, the two heads thing is worse!

Of course I'll vote for you. :)

The Pepperrific Life said...

I wouldn't know how to answer a question on death from my 6-year old. Even the anatomical difference between boys and girls is still a mystery to her.

As parents, we should be cautious as to how and where they get their info from. Better they hear it from us, than from anyone else, I guess. Although we don't always have the answers...

Popular Posts

Lightning Bug

onestop blog

http://i1139.photobucket.com/albums/n558/WordNerdSpeaks/OSBW7.jpg