Monday, May 23, 2011

pretty good kids

I guess I'll keep them. As far as kids go, I guess they're pretty great.

I've been sick for about two weeks with a strange antibiotic-resistant sinus infection. I've been run down and achey, popping ibuprofen every five hours and marshaling my energy reserves for the most essential tasks. When I've been able to, I've rested. I'm not much of a rester, so it hasn't been easy (though more episodes of Glee than I care to count and lots of historical fiction have taken the edge off).

Time was, the children found it unbearable if I stretched out on the couch and cracked a book in their presence. But on Saturday afternoon, I stretched out on one leg of the L-shaped couch with the New Yorker, and slowly but surely the kids found their way to me. I braced myself for complaints of intolerable thirst, or pleas for drawing pictures together, or pretend kittens pawing at my feet. But no! One at a time, they quietly found books of their own and climbed up on the other half of the couch next to me. How companionable and quiet we were! There was nary a complaint, nary a request - simply communal absorption in our reading materials. Gabriel studied his horse book, Frances her bird book, I the tale of a whistle blower at the NSA. Occasionally someone would look up and share something of interest, then nestle back in to the pillows to read a bit more.

Later that evening we went to the home of one of Mike's colleague's for dinner. The hosts are a lovely couple, older and childless with a beautiful, clean home and the most impressive, orderly floor-to-ceiling bookshelves I've ever seen. Another older couple whose children are grown also joined us. I was a bit nervous about how the kids would do in this decidedly adult atmosphere, but they took to it like fish to water. They swam about, basking in the attentions of so many grown ups, and conducted themselves fabulously. Looking through everyone else's eyes they seemed, as my dad would say, like a couple of real neat kids. They looked beautiful in the evening light, were relatively kind to each other, and remembered to say thank you.

As the darkness fell around us on the back deck, and everyone sat chatting and waiting for dessert, Gabriel climbed into my lap and rested his head against my shoulder. All the adults were sharing pet stories, and some of them included sickness and death. Gabriel looked up and asked me how dogs die. Also, where do they die? What happens to them? I answered as best I could. He fell silent, and then looked up at me, pinching his neck with both hands as he does whenever his anxiety level is on the rise, and asked very seriously: do people die?

Yes.

But do they grow up again, after they die?

No.

Then he wept. I told him that everything that lives, dies. I told him that maybe we live again in a different way, but we don't know much about it. I told him how the plants in the garden die in the winter, and come back green in the spring.

But will it be spring again?

We were right there at the table, surrounded by such kind people, some of whose ears must have tuned into our private conversation. I could not stop from crying myself, and I didn't mind if anyone saw. I cried for my boy, for the deep sadness shaking him while he sat in my arms. And I cried for everyone I love who has died, and for my own mortality, and more than anything for my children's mortality. I held his head close, and stroked his back, trying - futilely - to protect him from a new awareness that caused him, and will continue to cause him, terrible grief.

I haven't really stopped crying since it happened. Truth be told, I'm not quite ready to write about it. Ah well!

And then what happened? He gave a little shake, sat up a bit, and asked everyone present, Will the dessert be very sweet?

Nice segue, I thought. So nice that I'm going to try it myself, just in case you, too, find a three year old's dawning awareness of death a bit much to bear.

Let's talk about granola, shall we?
A painful symbol of my persistent sickness has been the empty granola jar sitting on its kitchen shelf. We are hooked on this granola, friends. Not a week goes by - normally - when I don't make a batch. I have tweaked it to just the right combination of sweet, nutty, toasty, and a wee bit salty. My simple version started here, and that version began in this excellent cookbook. (If you'd like my recipe - let me know and I'll post later. I'm afraid this post is long enough as it is!)

On Sunday morning, I woke up healthier. Finally. By 7 am a new batch of granola was cooling on the stovetop. I filled the jar. All was right with the world. I went to church, and still reeling from the talk with Gabriel, in between episodes of fighting back tears, I sang It Is Well With My Soul. Oh, dear readers! The body heals itself, grace is real, and sometimes, on a good day, I do believe, it truly will be spring again.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

awesome. I had tears in my eyes reading this. I highly recommend Mr. Rogers on this subject--you can buy the best episode on death here.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004E0FA1Q/ref=docs-os-doi_0
this led to a lot of wonderful discussions with John, and Daniel at that age as well. oh, how our children touch our hearts!