11 November 2007
I am usually the one who gets to explain the answers to some of life’s harder questions around here. This is usually because, as I’m the one with the kids most often, I’m the one who is there when the questions come up. Sometimes it’s cute and endearing. Sometimes, well, not so.

No trip ‘home’ would be complete without a visit to the parents. Sadly I no longer have either of mine. My mother died more than a decade ago. Her wish was to be cremated and returned to the crabs she loved so much, refueling the eco-system as it were (although what any crab could find to nibble on after the furnace got done with her I’ll never know). I wasn’t there the day my father and brother returned her to the elements, something that both bothers me and relieves me in many different ways, but I know the spot well. Still, there’s no plaque, no symbol of her presence on this earth, and that at times gets rough. All that’s left of her are memories and a few photographs.

My father passed 7 years ago this last August. He is buried, as was his wish, in a veterans’ cemetery along with all the old soldiers he loved so much, and, all too sadly, an increasing number of too-young ones. This is where I go to visit my dad when I go home.

The last time I was home, in 2004, I was pregnant with the monkey, and Marc and I made the pilgrimage together. That wasn’t an easy trip. One of the very last conversations I’d had with my father was about when I’d be making him a grandfather because he was getting up there in age and wanted to be around to see all his grandkids graduate high school. Of course, he died the very next morning, and missed not only my kids’ graduations, but all his grandkids’ graduations. The man was nothing if not fair.

This time wasn’t much easier. A lot had changed since that last visit almost four years ago. Here I was bringing that little unborn child back to meet Grandpa, only now he’s walking and talking and a big brother with two little sisters. (Dad would be more than pleased about that—he always wanted 10 grandkids, and now he’s got them). There was more than enough to tell the old man that he’d have been very happy to hear, yet it’s all very bittersweet because he’s not there to share his wisdom and wit anymore. That is something that still aches deep down, and I guess probably always will.

It was a nice day, if a bit windy (a lovely hurricane sat just off the NC coast, and was making its distant presence known). There was another burial scheduled at the time we arrived so Monkey-1 and I tried to make ourselves as quiet as possible. I must say the child can really be an angel at times, and this was one of them. So we sat and visited with my dad while folks gathered to say good-bye to Dad’s new neighbor and while I got to explain how and why this is my dad.

Explaining death to a child is not easy. I was brought up with all my questions about such matters answered directly and matter-of-factly. Marc was, too. And I think we both feel this is probably the best way, at least for us, to deal with these things with our own monkeys. So that’s what I did—brushed off Dad’s marker and explained yet another Big Thing to my son.

And cried.

But I know my dad would have been proud.

posted by Doc at 14:33 | Permalink |


  • At 15:03, Anonymous pat

    What a great post! Brought tears to my eyes thinking about my own father's passing nearly 11 years ago. My oldest was only 6 months old. I talk about my father very often with my boys (and of their paternal grandmother who passed a couple of years ago). Not always easy to explain to the little ones but I believe they truly understand in time. Hugs!!!

  • At 17:17, Blogger Poppy Fields

    This post brought tears to my eyes, that would have been a hard trip to make with your son. My dad's funeral was a year ago yesterday, and I am still not sure how much my girls understand despite the explaining I've done since then.

  • At 20:30, Anonymous Alison

    This is a great post, doc.

  • At 20:33, Blogger Antipodeesse

    Heck, I'm proud of you!

  • At 12:43, Blogger PutYourFlareOn

    This made me cry. Someday I will have to do the same for Maximilien. This year we are going home and I will make the trip to visit my mom's grave.

    So many hard lesson and answers to explain to our children. Aren't you amazed that you have the answers to their questions?

    I think your dad would be so proud of you!

  • At 16:51, Anonymous martina

    Brought me to tears, the story first, then the photo of your sad boy by his grandpa's grave.

  • At 01:08, Blogger Deb

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 01:09, Blogger Deb

    Sorry for your losses. That pic says what words cannot.

  • At 06:50, Blogger Tigue

    I must be really emotional this morning or maybe your story just hit a sensitive spot. My Mom also was cremated and Dad buried. Reading your story made all those memories rush back and the faucet flowed. Maybe because I was married this weekend and I so would have loved for them to be there. We march on though, dont we?

  • At 14:37, Blogger Amy H

    I've got tears in my eyes after that one. My mom died when I was 32 and I haven't ever gotten over it. I saved some of her ashes, much to the creeped-outness of my husband, but even without them I would feel like she's still around.

    I feel the same loss you described in not having your parents know your kids. Although I haven't yet had to explain where they are to my 2-year and 6-month olds. You're a brave woman, Doc!