Monday, October 26, 2009

Last week Luke and I had a long conversation (20 mins...that's a long time for a one-topic conversation with him that doesn't involve sports) about the day that Joe died. Thankfully this time it did not involve his insistence that it should have been me to go to the grocery store that night (therefore Joe would not have stopped there on the way home, therefore the accident would not have happened). This time he wanted specific information about where I was when I found out, where I was when it happened and what I did next. In short, he was asking for more details about what ensued for me after his daddy died.

This is a big step for Luke because from the very beginning, I know that on some level he has always been worried about me. Despite my assurance to him that I can take care of him and Alyssa and the house and our lives, without daddy here, I can tell he worries. I recently realized that all this time he wasn't worried about about those logistical items that I've worked so hard to prove myself capable of, he was worried about his mommy, her happiness and the fact that I lost my husband and what that means to me. Some may think that way of thinking is too advanced for such a little boy, but I know my son, and I have lived this tragedy day-in and day-out with my children over the past 2+ years, and I believe it to be the truth.

Luke was old enough (6 years and 6 days old) to have seen his mom and dad love each other every day. He remembers and is really the only witness on a daily basis to our marriage. Alyssa was so little when Joe died that she remembers bits and pieces and stories, not the day-to-day stuff.

I imagine it can be very difficult and maybe even scary for a little kid to see their parent cry. Luke has seen me cry on several occasions because I didn't want to completely shield him from the hurtful emotions that come with losing a loved one. I think that seeing his mother cry has been deeply upsetting to him but instead of showing it he pretended nothing bothered him. That could be one reason why he has never cried about losing his father, though honestly I cannot be sure. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

I also think that has contibuted to the long intervals between which he asks questions. I say "contributed to" because I think there are many other reasons why a child asks for bits and pieces at a time. One of those reasons is if you don't want to upset your mother, you don't ask questions that might make her cry.

So anyway, I explained to Luke more details of what happened that day. How I went to do an errand in Portsmouth; how daddy and I planned to meet back home at 6 and make dinner; how when I drove home I saw the accident. There he stopped me:

Luke: "What?! You saw the accident?!" (looking upset) "You never told me that!"

Me: "Well, I drove by there Luke, on my way home. And I saw a motorcycle on the ground, but daddy was not there. I didn't know for sure if it was his."

Luke: "What color was it?"

Me: "I wasn't sure at the time. It happened fast."

Luke: "Was it like, standing up?"

Me: "No it was laying on the ground."

Luke: "On the ground? Why?" (Luke has never-and most people have probably never-seen a motorcycle laying on the ground, they are always upright. Luke must have not ever pictured that the bike actually could have been doing anything other than standing up normally.)

Me: "Well, Luke, when he hit the truck-"

Luke (interrupting): "He hit the truck?! You mean daddy hit the truck? I thought the motorcycle hit the truck?"

Me: (slightly confused because I indeed did mean that the motorcycle hit the truck, but Joe also hit the truck so I was unsure what to say next.) "Daddy did hit the truck Luke because when the motorcycle hit it kind of threw him into the truck too".

Luke: (Silent, stressed look around his eyes but looking brave and determined to get his questions answered)

Me: (wondering if I am completely ruining this child by telling him this stuff)

Me: "It's hard to think about Luke, I hate thinking about that part. But one thing is that daddy died right away. Like, as soon as he hit he went unconscious. He didn't have any pain. Some people have a lot of pain when they die and daddy didn't have that."

Me: (Feeling completely unsure if any of that would make a difference to him, if he could even understand why not having pain would be a good thing considering that his father died. Just generally feeling very determined to answer him but not sure what I will say from one moment to the next because I have no idea what he will ask next.)

Luke: (insistently and in a problem-solving voice) "He should have stopped."

This is where I explained, as I have done many, many times, that you cannot stop instantly when in a car, bicycle, motorcycle, etc. He just doesn't seem to get it. I equate it to me telling my mother when I was very young and seatbelts weren't mandatory, that if I saw I was going to get into an accident I would put my seatbelt on really fast. As a kid it totally seems do-able. I understand what Luke is saying, but I have to keep hammering it home that what he's saying isn't possible. So I told him how as soon as daddy saw the truck pull in front of him he put on his brakes; how he tried really hard to stop before he got to the truck but he didn't have time; how daddy did everything right and everything he could to stop but it just wasn't possible.

Luke: "It's the truck's fault. He shouldn't have pulled in front of him."

Me: "Yes Luke, it's the truck's fault. Everyone agrees on that, that the truck should not have turned in front of daddy."

Luke: "What did you do after you drove by?"

Me: I drove home and I prayed the whole way home it was not daddy's bike that I saw".

Luke: (looking at me, waiting for more)

Me: "When I got home the garage door wasn't open and I had a bad feeling because usually daddy would have the door open when he got home. I came in the house and......(me mustering every bit of strength I have to give this information to my son with no tears in my eyes for fear of turning off his questions and having him stop talking)....he wasn't here. So I called Derek.

Luke: "Derek?"

Me: "Yeah, daddy had been at work so I wanted to know what time he left and knew Derek would know."

Luke: (Looking slightly confused because surprisingly he had forgotten that Derek and Daddy owned Boulder together. He asked a few questions about Boulder, asking who was still there, who was running it now and confirming that Derek owns Boulder alone now).

Me: "So I talked to Derek for a minute and then called Grammie. While I was on the phone the doctor called from the hospital and told me that daddy had been in a serious accident and he didn't know if he was going to make it."

Luke: "How did the doctor know?"

Me: "Because when there is an accident Luke, an ambulance goes to the accident and brings the people back to the hospital. The doctor was at the hospital when daddy was brought there but he had already died."

Luke: "So then what did you do?"

Me: "Derek came and picked me up and we drove to the hospital."

Luke: "Were you crying?"

Me: "Yes, I was crying"

Luke: "Like, how were you crying?" he displays various crying scenarios and asks me after each one, "like this?", none of it meant in a sarcastic or funny manner, but more that he really wanted to know how upset I was.

At this point he asked me more questions about that night, mostly centered around how I reacted to each thing. When he had enough of the conversation he ended by saying that he is going to get a motorcycle when he grows up.

I looked at him.

I had thought about this in the past.

I do not have anything against anyone riding motorcycles at all.

But......., my child?

Part of me wanted to tell him there would be no way on earth he would ever ride a motorcycle, to say something crazy, like, "Over my dead body" or "you would kill me if you did that" but I know that all of those comments are all about me and not about him. We sat and looked at each other for a few seconds.

"Well Luke, if you decide to ride a motorcycle when you get older your daddy would certainly understand why. Your daddy loved to ride his bike and it was one of his favorite things to do. So if you want to ride then that is your choice to make. It would be hard for mommy to see you on a bike but, that's your choice in your life".

I am not sure what the motorcycle comment was meant for, if he was testing me to see what I would say, or if he really thinks he might want to ride one for some reason that I completely cannot understand or relate to. However, I do know one thing for sure. Just as I would never do to his father, I would never in a million years tell him that he can not do something that he wants to do. People should be allowed to live life as they please and make their own choices. Although Joe knew that I pretty much hated his motorcycle and worried about him on it, I was not a wife that told her husband what he can and cannot do. Doing that would change who he was, and I loved Joe for who he was. A happy, confident, proud, fun-loving and live-life-to-the-fullest kind of guy.

I hope his son grows up to be the same way.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2 weekends ago, we were driving to the movie theater and Luke asked me a question that I was not ready for, but I thought might come at some point.

"Is daddy's body in the ground at the cemetery? Is there?"

We have never spoken about the specifics of Joe's actual body since he died. My children assumed that since daddy was in heaven, so was his body. I never told them otherwise. It is all very difficult and abstract for my young children. My general manner is to answer things as directly as possible but not offer additional information. They can't handle it. I can see by looking at their little faces that one question is enough for them, whatever question that might be. They take it in, and then they do something else, or change the subject completey. That is their way.

Luke usually typically asks me questions about Joe when he is on a high of some sort....when he's really happy and strong and feels like he can handle the answers. When I say "a high", I mean that he might be excited or hyper or really looking forward to something. This day his high was seeing Auntie Kim and Jesse and going to the movies.

When he asked me the question I said nothing. The first thing I thought of was Alyssa in the back seat with him. Though Luke may have learned or deduced what happens to a body when a person dies, Alyssa definitely had not. For the past two years I have talked to the kids, tried to explain to them about the difference between a body and soul, though never in terms of death and certainly never in terms of their father's death. This was all in preparation for when they would learn the truth about where their daddy's body is. But it's difficult for a child to understand, they are so literal, they want concrete proof of what a soul is. That's something I could not give them. It's hard to explain abstract ideas to a child, or at least it is for me.

We were driving and the music was on and it would have been easy for me to just not answer the question, and I definitely considered doing that. I felt like I didn't even know what to say, I felt completely stunned. Luke didn't ask again and I could tell his mind was just kind of racing from one thing to the next, he probably was already thinking of some other topic. I knew though, that I couldn't let this question slip by. I wanted to answer them truthfully so that they didn't make any of their own answers up in their little minds. After a few minutes I said, "What did you ask Luke?" and he repeated the question. "Yes", I said, "Daddy's body is in the ground at the cemetery".

"Can I talk to him?" Luke asked. "Hey, I can talk to him!"

I explained that yes, he could talk to him but he can also talk to him anywhere, anytime. I explained that daddy's body could not talk back, that the body in the ground is broken, and it does not work like the daddy that we knew.

"Can I go down there and see him?"

"No Luke, daddy's body is inside a box called a coffin. It's a beautiful wood box but you can't open it".

At that point I think the two of them pretended to talk to Joe for a little bit, being silly about what they would say to him. Alyssa pretty much took it all in stride. I think that at this point they might be able to actually understand that their daddy is in heaven AND in the ground. It's amazing really, it's a hurdle I have dreaded and never understood how I was going to explain to them without scaring them. And now the seed has at least been planted and there was no fear on their part and no additional difficult questions to confront at the time. They have not asked me about it since.

However, the bus passes by the cemetery where Joe is buried on their way home from school. Sometime recently Luke told me that he pointed to the cemetery on his ride home and told the kids that's where his daddy is. I cannot imagine what the kids thought about that information, but more than that, it rips my heart out that this is Luke's reality. It makes me intensely sad and angry that this is how things are. I have always felt angry in terms of myself visiting the cemetery. I get mad and resentful that I drop my kids off at school and go visit my husband at his grave. I often think how absurd it is, how if other parents knew what I did they probably wouldn't even know what to say about it. So it's like a secret, an angry, hateful, resentful, awful secret.

How did this happen?

After over two years I still ask myself how all of this could have transpired. My life, complete one moment, and completey upside down the next. A certain future one moment, a life full of promise and beautiful things. And in the next moment, a future of unknowns where nothing is certain. One moment I was married to a man that I was going to grow old with, we would take care of each other and watch our children grow. And in the next it was gone. Only me. Left.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Luke and Alyssa:

I would do anything for you to have your daddy back.