Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Times, They Are A-Changin'

One of the hardest things about being a parent is knowing that your child is going to be changed, possibly even harmed, by an event. Even harder is knowing that you are powerless to prevent the event or to shelter your child from its impact.

I experienced these feelings last Sunday afternoon. I had taken the girls to a local park, to give them a chance to run around and get some fresh air. While they were playing, I realized that DD would most likely, never see the world in quite the same way after a few short hours.

As I mentioned in my previous post, her father ("Jim") suffered a cardiac event earlier in the weekend and had been in the hospital overnight. While we were at the park, he was in surgery, having a stent put into a previously blocked artery. The four parents together had decided to keep the news of Jim's condition from DD until after the surgery. Jim didn't want DD to worry until we knew more about his condition and his prognosis.

A couple of hours later, JP took DD aside (while Kara and I went to the family room) and let her know what had been happening. Kara heard DD burst into tears and wanted to know what had happened, so I filled her in quickly. Her first instinct was to go to her sister and to try to comfort her.

I went with her and we did what we could, though we left a few minutes later to give her some privacy. We knew, at that point, that Jim's surgery had gone well and that he wanted to see DD. JP took her over to the hospital. DD understandably chose to spend the next couple of days with her dad. He seems to be healing well, though he later learned that the cardiac event was, in truth, an actual heart attack. He's also learning that he really needs to take things easy for the next several days.

DD came home last night and currently plans to go back over to her dad's on Christmas Eve. So far, she's emotionally drained and completely exhausted. This morning, she slept until nearly 10:00 am, which is very rare for her.

I think she's still processing things; she seems to be wrestling with the ideas of loss and mortality. She frequently cuddles with JP and I and she talks about her experiences with just about anyone who will listen. (I overheard her explaining what had happened to her Daddy to one of her classmates, who is also one of her closest friends.

I know the best thing I can do for her is to be there when she needs me and to be compassionately honest with her when she asks questions. Jim's experience has shaken all of us to some degree, especially since he's younger than both JP and I.

I know I will be there when DD needs me and that I can be available in whatever capacity she needs me to fill. Yet, I have to admit that my own feelings of paternal mortality are still a bit muddled. My father died in his sleep three years ago. He was sixty. His father also died young. I'm not completely sure how old Grandpa was when he passed, but I believe he was his fifties. Conversely, my maternal grandfather was in his eighties.

Dad died in the middle of the drama we had with B at that time. (In fact, we left Dad's funeral and drove to the family-portion of B's first treatment stint.)

So those feelings I mentioned at the beginning of my post were informed by an awareness that nothing seems precisely the same when you realize that the people in your life will pass away at some point. I've actually understood this since my late 20's and it's been a strange thing to carry through certain parts of my life.

At the park last Sunday, I wondered if DD would be carrying a piece of that knowledge forward. She's an amazing spirit, though. Knowing her, she'll find a way to carry this knowledge more gracefully than I did. She'll integrate this understanding into her natural acceptance of life and her inherent optimism. I can't wait to see the adult she's going to become. I'm sure she has much to teach me.

Photo credit: me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

We had Kara this last weekend, so we decided to make it our final "Let's Get Ready for Christmas" weekend. Well...sort of. JP has been quietly getting the house ready for the holiday. She had me bring in the boxes of holiday decorations a couple of weeks ago and then filled the house with a tastefully chosen (and carefully placed) variety of our traditional decorations. She had me put up the outside lights the previous weekend. So, the only thing left, really, was the Christmas tree. We waited until Kara could join in on the selection and then the decoration.

We decided to make it a tiny bit of an event and took the girls (DD and Kara) to see The Golden Compass, a film that has, you may have heard, generated a bit of controversy. *I* quite enjoyed it and will go into more detail in a later post.

After the film, we went to a tree lot sponsored by a local church, picked the one we liked, and went home to decorate it. All told, I have to confess that it was the easiest tree decoration I've known in a very long while. In the past, there has been a tendency for frustration to creep in. If you've ever been in that boat, you know that it's a little more than "awkward" to try to decorate a Christmas tree when everyone's frustrated and pissed off.

We had none of that this year; instead, we were like a well oiled (and trusting) machine. It was (dare I say it?) fun! (Sorry, but I still remember the Year of the Tree that Wouldn't Stand Upright Properly.)

Now, we have enough ornaments to decorate more than one tree and we all (yes, the four of us) kind of knew when we'd put just the right number on the tree. And, each of us kind of clued in and noticed when the tree had just the right number of ornaments. No more. No less. For me, it was a very cool experience.

After decorating the tree, the girls each wanted to read a Christmas story, so JP and I dutifully listened while DD read The Polar Express and Kara read A Penguin Named Osbert (which appears to have been renamed since the copy we have was published). There was much laughter, giggling, and silliness. The girls loved it.

Even Dog got into the act, as you can see from the photo (which shows him licking DD's feet...to many giggles).

It was a very bittersweet experience, though, for JP and I. You see, we each checked our mobiles when the film was over and we had both received calls from "Sarah" (DD's step-mom), calls that were placed scant minutes apart. While the girls and I were decorating the tree, JP followed up and learned that "Jim" (DD's biological father) had suffered a cardiac event and was in the hospital. Thus, JP and I ran interference by keeping the girls' experience light, amusing, and cheerful until the full details were known.

More on that...tomorrow.

Photo credit: Me.