Once in a while my son will stump me with a question that I don’t have answers to or don’t quite know how to answer. It usually can be resolved by a quick Google search, trip to the library or strategic distraction (which is usually not that difficult when you are dealing with a four year old), but this time it was different.
I was getting my son ready for bed. Pajamas? Check. Teeth brushed? Check. I had just promised him that he could watch the last few minutes of one his favorite shows before he went to sleep. Just as I was brushing his hair, he stumped me. Out of the blue.
He asked, “What happened to my Saba (Grandpa)? What happened to your daddy?” (Who had died long before my son was born.) I decided to answer with just the facts and nothing more. My voice trembled, I was taken aback. We had never spoken about what had happened or even the concept of death. Just the fact that he was “gone.”
“My dad is gone,” I answered with tears in my eyes.
“Did he die?” Again, I was shocked. We never talked about death. I always avoided the discussion, until now. But I answered.
“Yes, he did,” I said.
“So, he is dead?” my son asked.
“Yes, he is dead. And he is watching over us.”
“How did he die, Mommy? Was he sick?”
“Yes, he was very sick.”
“And no doctors could help him?” he asked.
“No, no doctors could help him.” Then he continued.
“I would love him, Mommy. I would want to play with him.”
“He would love you too. He loved you before you were born. I am sorry he can’t play with you.”
“Can we watch Netflix now?”
I stepped into the other room as my son watched the end of another episode of Diego and cried. My father had always wanted a grandson. He was like the father from My Big Fat Greek Wedding - “Get married, make babies,” he’d say, just without the “you look so old” part. He talked about all the places he would take my son; it is as if he knew I would have a son. He spoke of soccer days and park days, but never got the chance to meet his grandson. How do I explain this to a four year old? How do I explain losing the ones that we loved the most? How do I explain that his grandfather loved him even before he was born? How do I explain that he would have been an incredible grandfather that now he will never know? Long after my son fell asleep, I was still up. I was up thinking about our conversation and my son’s curiosity. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
I should have turned on Netflix.