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.

3 Comments:

Blogger Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

Even though I shared this experience with you, I enjoyed reading more of your thoughts on this ... lovin' you. xx, me

8:59 AM  
Blogger Awareness said...

Hi there.

No wise words from me.......I had a heck of a time (and sometimes still do) coming to terms with mortality. My daughter did as well......around the same age too (about 10 years old and beyond). It is tough, but I believe it is key to be encouraged to talk about it. That's the difference between me trying to deal with the realities way back then and my daughter.....I make extra sure that she can spill her worries and thoughts to me and not have to keep them stirring inside even if it triggers my own fears. I'm hoping it helps me as much as her. :)

Over the past couple of years, we have lost several elderly family members that the children were very close to.......my grandmother, their great uncle, and last June their grandparents (my in laws). This is very different than the thought of losing a parent or in fact going through it, but traumatic nonetheless. As I do, my kids feel a sense of their relatives around them, especially at this time of year.......talking about the remember whens help a great deal don't you think?

ps. thank you for your comment on my recent post. :) Merry Christmas to you and Deb and your family.

a toast to health !

2:14 AM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

I love how you and JP are working together to create such a strong family unit. So sorry to hear about Jim. Hope his condition continues to improve. DD is lucky to have you, too. Happy holidays, Lance!

2:54 PM  

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