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November 09, 2008

Kids, Death, and Honesty: From One Generation To Another

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Nasturtium As someone who grew up never being encouraged to talk about anything unpleasant or uncomfortable, I have to take note of a conversation I had with Milos and Cara a few weeks ago, after Daisy died.

Especially in comparison to the conversation, or lack thereof I had with my mother after Daisy died.

It was a bright Sunday afternoon when I took Milos and Cara to the Cradle of Aviation Museum, and in spite of the "I'm bored's" from Cara when Milos got to pick which exhibit we would see and the "Can we go now's" from Milos when Cara got to pick which exhibit we would see, we all had a good time and I got a wonderful dose Kiddie Frolics without the hard work of parenting.

When we came home, I decided to show them the nasturtiums that had sprouted in my backyard from the seeds they planted in the spring.  When we got past the gate, Milos said, "Look out for poop..." and then he stopped, remembered and said, "Oh...."

I said, "Yeah, no more poop to worry about."

He paused for a minute, gauging my reaction and then said, "Do you still miss Daisy Are you lonely without her?" 

"Yes, I still miss her a lot," I said.  "And it is lonely without her."

We then walked around the garden and looked at the yellow and orange nasturtium blooms. I tried to impress upon them that those pretty flowers were the result of the fun we'd had planting last spring. 

Then I told them about having Daisy cremated and how I'd buried some of her ashes in the garden.  Milos said, "You didn't bury her body?"

"No," I said.  "I buried her ashes."  When he asked where, I showed him the stones I'd placed to mark where she was.

"Can we see them?"  He asked, meaning the ashes.  I hid a chuckle as I marveled at his curiosity. 

"There's nothing to see.  Her ashes are mixed in the dirt.  But I put her here in the garden because she had so much fun here."

Cara then asked if she could see the locks of Daisy's hair I kept in a special box and which I'd shown them after she died.  I said no because it was getting late and it was time I got them home.

I thought about it later and how different my openess with Milos and Cara was from when I was a child and nothing, absolutely nothing important could be talked about openly.  I know now it was a different era, but growing up it was a terrible burden to keep every feeling and every question bottled up inside as if none of it existed or had any meaning.

Which brings me to my mother.  I didn't tell my mother about Daisy until two weeks after it happened because she'd been out of the country on vacation.  When she was back and I finally called and told her, all she said was, "I can't talk about this right now." 

I said, "Okay."

Now you might think this meant my mother was being insensitive.  Well, only partly.  What it meant was it hurt her that Daisy was gone, and she couldn't bear to talk about it.  And if she couldn't bear to talk about it her assumption was, I certainly couldn't either. 

I had several phone call conversations with her over the next couple of weeks and though she asked how I was, she never once mentioned Daisy, and never asked what happened. 

I knew part of the reason was it would be too emotional for her to hear me talk about it.  But you know what, I was the one who'd had the loss.  Suppose I needed to talk about it? 

Phone call after phone call, I got angrier and angrier, until finally during one call, without her asking, I just started telling her what happened:  how Daisy had gotten sicker and eventually I'd had to put her to sleep.

Sure enough my mother got emotional and teary and went to the other extreme, asking if I needed her to come to me right then.  I told her no, but inside I was pleased I'd gotten what I needed.  Part of me felt like I'd had to steal it, but the results were what mattered. 

That's why the thought of my conversation with Milos and Cara gave me great satisfaction because I knew they felt comfortable to be open with me.  They lived in a world where openess was accepted and now, so did I.

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