Thursday, January 21, 2010

Why I should just shut my mouth sometimes. And lie.

George is an old soul.

When he was born and we announced that his name would be George, more than a few people joked that George is an "old man's name". Ironically, we didn't realize at the time how well his name would befit him, for we now know that he has a gentle soul that is sometimes wise beyond his 5 years.

George has your back. He likes you before he doesn't like you. He believes that you spit sunshine and rainbows. He is your biggest defender. He hurts when you hurt. He is the champion of the underdog.

This is not to say that he is a perfect child. Like his brothers, he is no stranger to the time-out stair. However, I do worry that when he is older, my George, with his trusting, sunshiney nature, will be chewed up and spit back out by the cold, harsh world. So how do you toughen up a child who always looks at the bright side?

You don't.

Which leads me to the most depressing conversation on the drive to school in the history of...well...EVER.

Out of the blue, George asked me, "What happens when you get old, Mom?"

I know what he's getting at. Death. Why so deep today, George? Let's talk about the cement mixer that just barreled on past our car.

"Well, when you get old, your hair turns gray and your skin gets wrinkly. And....you get older," I responded, hoping that the answer would satisfy him, but I sensed somehow that it wouldn't.

"Yeah, but what happens after that? When you get old old?"

Crap. I hate talking about death. I hate talking about death as much as I hate thinking about death. He already knows the answer to this. Why this topic? Why now?

"Um...well....when you get really, really, really, really old, then you...um...well...you...die."

I regretted the word the moment it left my lips.

Time for a subject change. "Do you want to watch 'the Bee Movie', George?"

Silence.

Quiet sobs wracked his 5-year old body. George pulled the hood of his red puffy coat over his head, and zipped up the front tighter to cover his mouth.

"George? What's wrong sweetie?" I asked, knowing full well what was wrong. My big mouth did this.

Paging Debbie Downer.

Tears flowed down his chubby, red cheeks, until he finally spoke through his sobs. "I...just...can't...live...without...my...mom...and...daaaaaaddd!!!! When you are dead, you are dead foreverrrrrr!!!" he wailed.

Nice, Clare. Niiiice. Way to inject some realism into the drive to school. Couldn't you just have given him a hearts and flowers answer? It's called avoidance. Try it some time.

"Sweetie, Daddy and I aren't going to die!"

"But you're going to someday, and then I will have to live without you!"

"George, when Dad and I die, we'll be old, and you'll be old too!" I said, clearly scrambling for words to make this better.

What???

He's 5! Please make this topic go away. Anyone know a good fart joke? Potty talk? Something? How did we get from, "Wow! Look at the garbage truck!" to "Everybody dies, and life is too short."

I want to vomit.

"Yes, everybody dies, but we're not going to die for a REEEEAALLLYYYY long time! You don't have to live without us. It's a REAAAAALLLLYYY LONG time from now! And then we're going to all live together in heaven!"

Stupid answer. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Somebody make the verbal diarrhea stop. They should make Imodium for the mouth. Oh wait. They do. It's called, SHUT THE HELL UP AND STOP TALKING, CLARE.

Completely unconvinced after my less-than-stellar response, George resumed his crying.

Nausea crept into my stomach. This is why I don't do the death talk. This is why I need Bill here. This is why I should have just skated around the truth and said, "When people get old, they just get really old and gray and wrinkly. And they ride around on unicorns when their legs stop working." Period. End of Sentence.

Bill grew up living above the funeral home that his family owned. He was the son of a mortician. For as long as he could remember, he was surrounded by death. As a small child, he would sit on a stool in the embalming room with his dad as his father prepared bodies for their final rest. Just like that. Death is a part of life, and his family's life was all about death.

Yet I can't even fudge my way through a simple question about life and death and getting old.

Should we be so lucky to make it to a ripe old age.

I offered up a silent prayer in my head. "Please, Dear God, don't make me a liar to my son. Please let Bill and I live until we are old and gray and wrinkly."

George was inconsolable, and I caused it. It was all my fault.

Finally George decided, "Mom, when it's my turn to die I'm just not going to close my eyes. I'm going to keep them open, and then I'll never die."

"Okay, George. Sounds good."

That'll be enough of that. Next topic.

"Mom?"

No more heavy questions. Please. Have you not picked up, in all of your infinite 5-year old wisdom, that I suck at this line of questioning?

George continued, "Instead of 'Bee Movie', can we watch 'Madagascar 2'?"

Thank you.

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