Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

Lost and found

“Bonhomme, there’s something Daddy and I need to talk to you about.”
We’re at the tail end of Sunday morning breakfast, relaxed, getting ready to get on with the day. There was slow-cooked scrambled eggs, with fresh basil and chives from the garden. Mango on the side. My coffee cup’s still steaming, empty.
“What, Momma?”
Jam-faced, Bomhomme turns to me expectantly. He can see that I’ve got my serious look, but not my you’re-in-serious-trouble-young-sir look. I glance at Dearest, to check if he’s ready. He nods.
“Love, Kitty’s passed away.”
A beat of silence, puzzled. Then –
“Kitty’s run away, did you say?”
“Maybe, Sweetheart, Mummy and Daddy think that might have happened. We haven’t seen her in a week, and we’ve looked everywhere in the house she could be. We think that yes, maybe, she got out of the house and ran away. Especially if she was sick and hurting inside, which can happen sometimes with very old cats like she was.”
Excited, mental gears whirring, he pipes up –
“But maybe she’s just hiding! She can be very shy, you know. She could have found a great little spot and be safe and cozy!”
His face glows, hope shining in it. He’s smiling at me, bouncing up and down, ready for the best hide and seek game ever. His spirit is so beautiful it is literally lifting him in the air, and I know that it is my job now to crush it.
“No Love, I’m terribly sorry. Mumma and Daddy have put out fresh food and water for Kitty, and cleaned her litterbox and watched very carefully, and she hasn’t come out of any hiding spots to eat or drink or pee or poop. Not for days. We looked and looked in all her favourite spots, with flashlights, even moving furniture. If she’s in the house, she’s not alive any more. And if she’s not in the house, if she ran away because she was not feeling good and got scared because of that, then she’s lost, and maybe not alive outside too. Either way, whatever happened, she’s gone. I’m so sorry, but Kitty’s not going to be part of our home anymore.”
His face, frozen throughout my speech, crumples.
I hold my arms out to him wordlessly. He flys tripping from his chair around the table and into them. I lift all heavy limbs of four-year-old independence into my lap and we rock, crying together.
Dearest looks on, eyes red-rimmed. He’d questioned the need to break the news, thinking her memory might fade without an obvious absence. I’d argued against, asking him what we’d say when one of Bonhomme’s friends next visited who knew we had a cat and wanted to pet her. And so, I’ve got the floor. This pain is of my making.
“That makes me so so so so so saaaAAADDD!!!”
“I know, Honey. It makes me so sad too.”
More rocking.
“But Momma, that, that, that just breaks my heart!”
“Oh Love. It breaks my heart too.”
Sniffling, quieting slowly.
“Momma, that hurts me inside! WaaaahhhhaaaaHHAAAAAHAAAWAAA!!!”
I let the ramping up volume and final storm hit, and subside. He drapes limp across me, with my arms braced to make him fit on my lap, just.
“Mommy, I’m so sad that I can’t even take a bath. I can’t even do anything.”
“I know how it can feel that way. But, life goes on. Even baths. We have to find a way to make some space inside of us now, for Kitty, and take her with us in our hearts everywhere we go – and find a way to go on. We honour her with our sadness, but we can’t let that sadness stop everything. You can be sad, and still manage a bath. We’ll always feel sad about Kitty, but it will get a little bit easier, every day, to handle the sadness.”
He mumbles, sniffs, buries his face in my shirt.
“We can remember all the good things too, you know. Only this part is sad – all the other parts about Kitty are happy, or funny, or warm and soft memories. Like how she would sniff your finger, and come pat your leg at the table, and how she liked to curl up on my chest all the way under my chin. And she had the loudest miaow! It would wake me up at night sometimes, it was so loud! Did she ever wake you?”
A sullen muffled no.
Dearest pitches in, quietly.
“She lived a happy, long, healthy life, Bonhomme. Fourteen years. Did you know that in cat years, that’s even older than Grampa?”
“But it wasn’t long for me!”
Bonhomme’s right, of course. And insulted with this hurt he doesn’t know what to do with. Dearest is flummoxed. Not having known what to say to begin with, he’s clearly not going any further now.
I squeeze Bonhomme, and murmer into his hair.
“She gave us as long as she had, Love. Her love was a gift she shared for as long as she could. Thank you for sharing your sadness with us. Now it’s bathtime, it’s getting late. We’ve got to get ready for your playdate.”
As I shoo him off reluctantly to the bathroom, Dearest and I hug.
“He’ll bounce,” he says quietly into my hair. I nod.
And he does, throughout the day. I overhear him telling his friend while I’m weeding nearby, about Kitty running away. His friend nods, too, silent. Dearest isn’t the only one who doesn’t know what to say.
Later, strawberry-picking with Grandmaman, he says less. He lets me tell her, cement the details in his mind for him, lets Grandmaman ask all the questions he’s dying to. Argue with all my rational answers.
“No matter what happened or where she is, it’s been too long. She’s gone.”
Grandmaman nods. Bonhomme nods.
I take him to the park before dinner, just him and me. He locks the door with my keys, by himself, for the first time. Proud, he offers to carry them in his backpack.
“I’ll keep them safe for you, Momma!”
“That’s a really big responsibility. I’m trusting you not to lose them, and to stay close to me, okay? Otherwise I couldn’t get back in the house!”
“Don’t worry, Momma, I’ll take care of you.”
We walk away from our now emptier house, hand in hand. He shoulders his backpack, his responsibility, his sadness.
And we go on.


Picking favourites, picking sides

Bonhomme, I love it when you call me your “best mom”. It’s beyond endearing. But it worries me. You’ve been telling Daddy that you don’t like it when he reads to you, that you want only me to, and that he “doesn’t read good”. You’ve been wanting only to get changed with me at the pool, although I do think you have a point about the smelliness of the men’s changeroom.

It’s natural to gravitate to one parent more than another; we all do it. We all seem to need someone to rebel against, align with. But he’s got his strengths and I’ve got mine – and you’re going to be angry with each of us, possibly often, probably at the same time.

Raising children is an awesome, awful, awe-inspiring responsibility.
I’m not cut out to be a superhero.
I muddle through, as we all do, with more downs than ups most of the time.

You’re going to go to school this Fall. You’ll learn amazing things, make many new friends, and struggle with the rules. Some of the things you think are normal will turn out not to be – and that’s going to hurt. Like when the kids in the schoolyard make fun of your dad because of his size. What will you say to them? What will we say to you? I can’t stop this speeding train. I’ve only got Best Mom powers. And you’re going to find out that those aren’t always enough.
You’ve got my sensitivity, my empathy, my way with words. My inability to not cry.

Of his own daughter, Matthew D. Laplante said “You, in turn, will be be the person I am. You will be the person I will teach you to be. And you will be the person you will learn to be, exclusive of me. And so it goes and goes.”

You’re my best Bonhomme, my little warrior. I know it’s your nature to draw battle lines, to pick sides. It’s your father’s nature too. And me telling either of you not to isn’t going to do one lick of good.
And so the best I can do is make sure you’re equipped against foreseeable contingencies, and teach you to make do.

I too, will be the person you teach me to be. It’s an awesome responsibility.