I am ready for sunshine and that general happy feeling of summer. I am tired of dreary, sickness, and death. Not as tired as some but still I think we’ve all had enough bad things that we could use a good day. I would like to coordinate the international “Good Day” when we just agree to not let things suck. No gifts or thoughts or cards or imaginary creatures that allow grownups to keep the kids in-line for a month before. Just a day where we follow the rules of; 1) Smile for no reason and 2) Don’t be a jerk.
One of our children has become pre-occupied with death. I don’t know why or really how to deal with it because she is somewhat obsessive about different subjects at different times. She is scared about dying or death meaning that you are in a box inside the Earth and it will spin for all eternity and she doesn’t want to be stuck in a box. It seemed irrelevant to tell her that she would be dead and it wouldn’t matter.
What a crappy subject. I have mixed feelings about what to tell her concerning death because I worry that if there is a personality or chemical imbalance then I certainly don’t want to sell death as a vacation. Then again how dreary can it get to be unhappy and think that the next phase is spinning around the earth in a box in the dark forever. Do you tell her about the cremation option? “Don’t worry there isn’t a box if you choose to be burned into a pile of ash.” Yeah I can see the father-of-the-year award being handed over.
So we took an alternate route. I decided maybe we could talk about it head on.
“What is bothering you about death?”
“They say you don’t get to talk anymore.”
“Who says that?”
“Did Jane say that?”
“Maybe. No. Maybe…”
“Well whoever said anything about death is just guessing.”
“But they know.”
“Are they dead?”
“Then how can they know?”
“They don’t. And we don’t like things we don’t know. Those things scare us.”
“The dark scares me too.”
“Is it because you don’t know what is there? Or is it because you tell yourself something bad is there?”
“I don’t know. But I don’t want to die.”
Sometimes you want to hug the answers into them and the fear out. Sometimes you want that to work for you too. We have similar fears and children are just honest about it.
How many of us are totally faking the funk about being scared of the dark. I hate going places that I can’t see what is waiting around the corner. I remember one night I was taking the trash out to the curb and the wind was blustery and the streetlight was out. Further streetlights were casting dim light and long shadows. Rustling leaves would completely hide sounds from whatever boogey man or vicious dog was lying in wait for me. My brain was hyper-alert and I moved quickly to the curb. I made the drop and turned back towards the house and my would-be attacker suddenly moved in the shadows. I was convinced a panther was on my heels and the adrenaline fueled war-cry and Chuck Norris style flying kick were plenty defense against any predator that would have been attacking me. That little black kitten had no idea who he was messing with and the sheer panic on his face as he escaped across my path and into some bushes didn’t help me feel anymore manly about my reaction. The little bastard could have hissed or something sinister.
Today I faced a new shadow along a walk to the curb. Death is around. Lurking. Most of us don’t even try to fake that fear. I looked at my precious little girl and saw her mother and my mother and her sisters and a grandmother. I had a new thought to try out on her.
“So Prima, you are scared to die because you don’t want to go away, right?”
“You know how people tell you that you look like other people? Like Aunt Daisy and Supermom and your Noni?”
“But then sometimes you say something funny and people tell you that you are like daddy.”
“Yes that happens too.”
“So if every part of you is shared with someone else. Every thought you have is a collection from people you love. If every person you meet will take something from meeting you that they will remember. Our job is to take as much in as we can and to send it right back out to those who need it. It seems to me that not only will the things that define “Prima” not truly die but by giving all the best of yourself to others, you might have a chance to live forever. But remember not to overshare with strangers, people are afraid of what they don’t know. I would start with a smile and go from there. “
“I don’t like Hamburger helper daddy.”
“Who is talking Hamburger Helper? I am giving you existential nuggets of truth to validate your existence and you ponder back and forth for Hamburger Helper? It isn’t even hamburger it is the Tuna Helper brand. See the box, shitty tuna skillet meal, says so right there.”
That is exactly why we don’t have serious hobbies. No attention span.
I have no idea what I accomplished. Maybe she was looking for attention for a little while and when supper was done she felt better. She says some strange things and I just want to explore the tough subjects.
I just hope they never corner me and demand to know why I fixed unhealthy meals like Hamburger Helper. That is a question that I am seriously underprepared for.
So if you answer a kids question about death with, “Oh wow! Was that a squirrel?” This post is for you. You’re Welcome.
-Underdaddy to the Rescue