In my last post I mentioned my dad’s recently diagnosed illness. Since then, I have been touched by the outpouring of good wishes, aimed both at me and my family, and my dad himself. It is a marvellous legacy of a life well lived, for a man well loved, and even though we are still treading with sorrowful shoes, not quite sure yet where the path is actually going, it makes me think of the up side.
The up side is the wonderful outpouring of the human spirit when times are sad. I think it is what makes us human – being able to feel and share each other’s hardships and react with sympathy and kindness. Every single note I have received, whether electronically, by phone or in person has helped me. For those I haven’t answered yet – and there are quite a few – my apologies. Unusually, for once, I’m not so chatty right now. But I saw your note, I heard your message and I felt your kindness.
And life goes on. It must. And the children help. Whether it’s looking after them physically and preparing meals and taking them to school, or hearing their voices over the phone when I sneak in a quick call from work, or going with them to a five-year-old’s birthday party, there is no doubt in my mind that the children help to deal with sorrow.
From this summer fabric of blessed children’s normality I weave myself a tiny bit back into a semblance of being okay. At least for now.
Today’s birthday party was a good one: a jumping castle, a bubble machine and two puppet shows were all on offer, together with great snacks and some really nice parents to chat to. Afterwards there were balloons to take home together with the party packs. My boys both wanted red, so red balloons were handed over with kindness.
I decided to take a slightly different route home and we landed up driving past our old house, where Liam spent his first year of life while Matthew was still just a promise in the future.
“Look,” said I. “There’s our old house, Liam. Where you lived when you were little.”
“Yes,” said he, “with the yellow walls and the green (garage) door.”
“And I also lived there!” piped Matthew.
“No,” said I kindly, “you were still in heaven waiting to come down.”
‘Yes,” said his older brother decisively, “you were waiting to pick your body. You still had to pick it.”
This I found intriguing.
“I like your thinking,” I said carefully, “but who told you that? Where did you hear it?”
“Nowhere,” said Liam. “I just remember being in heaven waiting to pick out my body. I wanted two eyes and two legs and two arms… And you Matthew, you also picked out your body before you were ready to come down. I still remember my spirit but I don’t remember what colour it was…”
He trailed off. Trying to remember?
“Well,” I said, feeling that surreal feeling that sometimes comes over a person when having philosophical and esoteric discussions with children, “I like what you chose. You picked a nice body.”
“Yes. I did.”
This in an absolutely matter-of-fact manner with no hint of ego at all. Young children just call it like they see it.
“And I picked a nice body too!” said Matthew, not one to be left out of important conversations.
“Yes, my love, yes you did,” I replied rather inadequately (feeling by now slightly overwhelmed by the universal and rather gigantic philosophical concepts being played out in the Panda with such nonchalance).
Soon after that we arrived home. Leaving me to bring my handbag and other paraphernalia that I seem to somehow gather into my car, the children grabbed their balloons and ran briskly up the stairs to see their dad.
I followed more slowly, thinking about the wonderful conversational gems – and universal truths? – that children freely and amazingly utter before they grow up and get self-conscious.
As I type this there is a red helium balloon clinging to the ceiling and the boys are out walking the dog with Frank.
The balloon has a happy, carefree look to it.
It is nice to think that even when times are tough, life can still give us red balloons and universal comfort from the mouths of babes.
(Note: Thanks to Tracy for the photos)