So I’ve been a little radio silent the past few weeks. Mourning is hard, man. Mourning when you are 5 is even harder. Every few days Ev calls me in a tiny voice and says, “Mom? I miss Aunt Debbie and Grandma Ruth.” Aunt Debbie’s death, a heavy blow because she was absolutely a favorite family member for all parties, has stirred up his grief over losing his great grandmother. The funeral was harder for him because unlike Grandma Ruth, who’s ashes we buried months after her death, Aunt Debbie had a full catholic service. He and Delilah had trouble understanding how she could be inside the box. “Where is her pillow? Are they going to give her a pillow?” Her pillow is already inside with her. It’s very comfortable inside the box. “What about a blanket? Is the white blanket on the box to keep her warm?” Sure.
The burial wasn’t much better because it was short and sweet and we all departed for the wake before the casket was even lowered into the ground. There was much crying from my five year old as he struggled to understand how we could be leaving before she was buried. “She’s not in the ground! We didn’t bury her!” Those men will lower her into the ground and put the dirt on her, don’t worry. “They’re just waiting for us to leave?” Yes. “I’m sad. I miss Aunt Debbie.” I know, baby, I do too. We can come back and visit her grave another day, after they’ve buried her. You can bring a treasure for her gravestone. “The rock with words?” Yes. “I want to find a seashell to bring for Aunt Debbie!” That sounds lovely.
Christmas is going to be severely hard on us, I think. On me, for sure, and definitely on Christopher who loved her the longest. I keep thinking about Aunt Debbie and hearing her voice in my head and then tearing up because I’ll never hear that voice again. She was always so very kind and so very blunt. I liked her bluntness. Maybe because it made me feel secure in how she felt about me, because if she didn’t like me I’d probably have known. We used to do Christmas Eve at her house, but this year we’re going to Christopher’s other Aunt and Uncle’s. And it will be nice, but it won’t ever be the same. And I think about how she loved my children, how she’d said if she knew babies could be as “good” as Kimball she would have had them herself – even though I know the truth about her infertility taking that choice from her. And I think about Uncle Mike in that big farm house surrounded by Aunt Debbie’s horse collection and paddocks and the horses in the barn that she rode and was planning to therapy ride. And I’m just still so damned sad.
I’m not sure when I’ll be able to climb out of this grief. After Christmas, maybe. I’m not sure how best to guide my children through theirs since this is the first time I’ve ever experienced loss of a family member who wasn’t just very old and worn out. It’s a delicate thing explaining illness, especially when your five year old has a peer who is enduring cancer treatments herself. A constant balance of being truthful that Aunt Debbie died because of the cancer while not frightening him about Becca. Because he does ask those questions with death so close at hand.
And while this is playing out daily here in the home, we also have to move on. Try to celebrate the holidays with joy. Try to get over our annual November illnesses that have this year taken the form of the flu or something and have lingering coughs and congestion. Try to enjoy this little guy and all of his gorgeousness, because he is and he is one of the few things that really makes me smile day-to-day.
This weekend Christopher’s remaining grandparent, Grandpa M, turned 89. We don’t usually get invited to the family celebration, but this year some of the cousins were up from North Carolina so it became a thing.
To prep for Grandpa M’s birthday the kids and I came up with a creative gift for him. I picked up a picture frame at the local craft store and had some photographs from Halloween printed out. Usually we drive over to the West Side so he can see them in their costumes, but this year was especially windy and wet and the kids were ready for bed by the time it was over, so I thought he’d appreciate the images.
Ev took special pains to write his name on the top frame and then drew some pictures around the edges. Delilah did the same, though she found it harder to get into the project because they were using pencil which was super light and she likes bold lines she can see. When they were in bed and the baby was sleeping I broke out the wood burner and etched their drawings into the wood. Note: I’m a total wood-burner newb so the above illustrated technique may not be the best. You should read your manual, which I did not.
It looks kind of fantastic. And the kids loved it. I think Grandpa M loved it too, he really likes pictures of the kids and he likes getting artwork from the kids – total double score. I wouldn’t be surprised if this teamwork doesn’t resurface at Christmas time…. you have been warned!
Yesterday was Great Grandpa M’s 89th birthday so those of us who were able gathered at his club to celebrate for dinner. Celebrating one person’s longevity was made difficult by the sudden loss of another family member to cancer on Friday, from which we are all still reeling. There was a definite shadow on the evening, even Grandpa M was less boisterous than he usually would be, but the littles made it easier to be distracted. At least for one night.
This was last night. He seriously couldn’t have picked out more than E, V and T four weeks ago. Progress indeed.
Things I’ve been noticing, especially with regard to this video and what he actually seems to recognize with the magnets versus on paper.. for whatever reason he is more able to pull the knowledge out of his brain with the magnets. On paper he will straight up stare and either tell you he doesn’t know or start reciting the alphabet with many of these letters he is picking out.
Did you notice how he didn’t know what the K was one instant but did 30 seconds later? I can tell you that he thought it was an R originally, and that’s why he put his hand on it and hesitated with the answer then moved on. He knew it wasn’t an R but he always thinks it’s an R. When we’re working on the writing I usually remind him it’s the first letter in his friend Karl’s name and then he remembers and says “oh right, Karl teached me that.” This time the letter fell on the floor and something about that happening just made the knowledge pop to the front for him.
I’ve definitely learned that he needs quiet and alone time in order to focus on his homework. I’m thinking we might need to put a desk in the library since we can shut that space off entirely. Or maybe just close off the dining room where he is currently working and make Del do her work elsewhere.
Delilah wants to do whatever homework he does too, which is great for her but often seems to create sluggish efforts that quickly crumble into doodling and scribbles and whining that he needs a break after the barest of attempts. I’ve also figured out that I have to put the homework to him as soon as we get home from school and it can’t be more than 3 sheets but preferably only 2 sheets. More than 3 and he gets upset and breaks down. Too much “work” for his brain to handle, he seems to think it will go on forever even if one of those pages is only coloring in the letter and another is simply writing his last name once.
And I am totally cool with only giving him 2 sheets of homework, because he literally spends the rest of his indoor time attempting to make words on his magna-doodle or having me tell him which letters come next so he can write letters to various family members. I mean the kid goes to bed (or to sleeping bag as he has lately been “camping” on his bedroom floor) with his doodle board because he doesn’t fall asleep right away and instead writes ‘words’ until sleepy.
He’s definitely got the alphabet bug. I have another meeting with the IEP group next week for a re-evaluation since the last meeting. I’m hoping his strides will have been noticed.