Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Will See You In Far Off Places

There we were, enjoying the naive innocence of "tub time", when VB mentioned that he'd like to go to the hospital to visit Baby M. This it where it begins -- the time when questions are asked no child should need to have answered.

You see, "Baby M" is the young co-cancer-fighter who died back in the fall.

VM calls me upstairs to explain who VB has said he will visit. We look at one another with sad eyes. Of course, we knew this day would come. I suppose that every parent has to deal with the "death" issue at some point, but if you're lucky it involves the death of a turtle, sock puppet, or something else benign. Not another human being -- and certainly not someone who died of the same thing that could still spell the end for the inquisitive child as well.

I respond that Baby M is not at the hospital any more. VB disagrees, clearly looking for something more satisfying in a response. VM starts to explain. "VB, do you remember when you were sick? Well, Baby M was very sick -- very, very sick."

"Yeah," VB replied, with his shoulders shrugged and his hands raised in an "I don't know why" position. "She's sick. She needs medicine real fast."

"Well," VM said tentatively, "the medicine didn't work. She was too sick."

"So she's gone," I tack on.

VB thinks for a moment. "Yeah, she moved to a new house."

"Well....Sort of." VM shoots me a look as I give this reply. Technically it was a fair answer -- depending on your view of the afterlife. "He's only 3" I whisper quickly, "there isn't much of this he's going to understand."

Many years ago I used to run summer leadership camps for high school students. As camps go it was a rather emotionally intensive affair, complete with intense bonding and "warm fuzzy" sharing amongst participants. Towards the end of the program, when we were working with the youth to help them prepare to say goodbye to the experience and head home, myself or a camp counselor would read The Fall of Freddie the Leaf. We'd of course lighten the discussion of death that is at the core of the story, and instead use it as a metaphor for endings in general.

Never in a million years would I ever have conceived I'd find myself running around my house one day, searching for my copy, so I could help my son understand why his little friend is gone; that the same thing that took her away almost took him as well...And still might some day.

Yet, there I was.

However, by the time I found it, I returned to VB's bedroom to find him curled up in bed with a far better book. With a mix of relief, and the nagging existential angst that keeps me drinking way too much coffee, I put death aside for another day...And hopefully many, many more.

8 comments:

mr. big dubya said...

I do not envy you or your wife - these are certainly not conversations you want to have with any child let alone one that has been through what VB has. I do, however, envy your strength and courage - I'm not sure I'd hold up as well in a similar situation.

TwoBusy said...

Man, that's a tough conversation. (Not that you haven't had enough of those already over the past few years.) Thank God for the short attention spans of 3-year olds.

Herbal T said...

Hi Vampdaddy,

It is your cousin in the UK, the one who left MA a few years back? (Bad haircuts, crazy wife?) I have been following your blog for a while now and wanted to get in touch to say hello and say that we are missing being with you and hopefully giving each other mutual support in this journey of life.

Please say hi to the family (immediate and extended) and say we think of you all often.

Not sure if this blog is immediate comment or censored so will not post my email address. I can be reached thru my new blog
http://themixedupworldofherbalt.blogspot.com/
all comments are censored so your email address will not be posted.
Look after yourself and family, and please drop me a line to say hi.
T. H and the kids.
XXXX

creative-type dad said...

That's tough.
I'm not sure how I would handle that one; I had a hard time explaining the passing of our dog to my little one.

She still thinks he's at the vet.

soapfaerie said...

A participant of your camp here. Hard to believe i was a participant 10 years ago. OMG. 10 years ago this summer. I was a YAS in '99. Amazing how time flies...
i think Freddie was stopped even before my time... i don't recall it. i remember the bunny story (not velveteen rabbit, but another), and Oh! The Places You'll Go! which i gave to several special friends for their high school graduations.
*sigh*
heather a~*

Anonymous said...

I remember receiving "Freddie" from a family friend when my brother passed away years ago. I still pull it out from time to time and read it. When I was 8, it was a great way to explain it.

~Miss Beth

Papa Bradstein said...

Ugh. Rough. You and VM handled it well. Good intentions mean more than the raw truth.

Heather B said...

Hello friend-
The summer has flown by and I was just catching up on your blog and the mention of "Freddie" and all the memories that it holds for all of us came back to me and I was brought to tears of so many kinds. I had forgotten about our friend Freddie in my own constant search to explain the why and where questions that still arise with the loses my children have gone through in recent years. It also reminded me that Freddie could be good soup for my grownup soul as well. As the saying goes, thanks for the memories and hope all is well. Let's catch up before the literal Freddie and his friends show their blaze of color and drift to the ground. Love to VM and VB.