Trains & Telescopes
A few weeks ago, my husband lost his father. I was not prepared for the death of my father in law. I was even less prepared to tell it to my daughter. He took care of my daughter almost everyday for the first two years of her life. Needless to say that he played a major role in her life and their relationship was one of kind. The best description of their dynamic was probably a modern version of Mowgli and Baloo. Learning how to walk and pick flowers in our neighbourhood, eating one croissant too many. Seeing her play in room a few minutes before the conversation, crushed my heart. The innocence of her silly games was unbearable to watch. We explained to her that her grand father was gone, some place very far. That he was sick and that there was nothing that we could have done to stop that. She asked, why didn’t he see a doctor? He saw a doctor we said, but the doctor could not help him. She was silent for a bit and then with a great burst of enthusiasm she told us, OK, all we have to do is to take a tram, a bus and a plane and we will arrive to the place where he is. Can we not ? I could see the pain growing in her, all I wanted was to absorb it, melt it away but I could not. I explained to her that the place where her grand father went was not the world of the living and we could not go there (at least for now, but this I didn't say). It was too far for us to reach. I told her she was lucky to have memories of him, these will always stay with her. All she had to do is close her eyes put her hand on her heart and she would feel his presence. She was silent again starring at the window. I could see her little mind racing, trying to crack this impossble puzzle. She then said, fine, if this place is far let’s use a telescope, then we could see him!
We drove to my office, printed a picture of the two of them, drove back home and looked at the picture with a telescope. A few days later, she asked me what does it mean to be sick? Is having a thorn in the finger means that one is sick? I did my best to explain to her that no having a thorn didn’t mean that one is sick. That sometimes when she sneezes, or I sneeze and we have a virus that that means we are sick, it didn’t mean however that it was severe. After that we didn’t speak of it again.
I kept wondering for days if she understood what we told her. I tried to monitor her reactions, but I could not spot anything unusual. I didn’t use the M word in French but I was certain she knew it meaning, people die in every other Disney movie after all. On the day of her fifth birthday, I told her we will call her grand mother. She was once more silent for a short moment. Then she told me: to see Dada, I close my eyes, put my hand on my heart “ et je pense fort à lui”.