Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Nick's thinking about things

Nick calls to me from his bedroom at about 9:45. He's been in bed for forty-five minutes. I go to talk to him.

"I'm thinking about my own mortality*," he says. "I think about what would happen if I went to sleep and didn't wake up."

"That's hard to think about," I say.

"Hard not to, you mean."

Doesn't miss a beat, this kid. So we chat for a while about what might make him feel better. We agree that I'll check on him in a few minutes and see how he's doing. When I come back he has new worries. What will happen if Mark and I die? Who will take care of him? Where will he go to school?

I'm a little worried about this one--should I let him know we've tried to take care of this for him? He's literally imagining waking up in the morning and needing new parents, pronto. He's thought about a few options.

"First I thought about the H---. But then I couldn't go to my same school. So then I thought about my other friends from school, but I couldn't go to the same church."

This surprises me. He's been asking not to go to church lately, after all. But I let it continue. Finally I suggest his actual guardians (well, theoretical, since the wills are...I know! I know!).

"Really?" he says. "Why not M--- or L---?" They're out, I answer, because they don't have kids.

"But...then I couldn't taste meat until I grew up and left! I'm afraid I wouldn't like their food! And, they'd really have their hands full with two other kids!"

(Ah, the food thing. Is it better to be worrying about that than the death of your parents? Are vegetarian guardians the worst thing he can imagine?)

We run through various other permutations: grandparents, friends, other relatives.

"The thing is, Mommy, if you left, SOMETHING would change. Maybe two or three or four things."

I don't point out that if I "left" (his euphemism for death, at this point) everything would change. I remind him instead that we're doing our best to stay. I give him another hug, tell him I love him, promise to check back in ten minutes. In less time than that, he's asleep.

So obviously there's still a lot to process. These are interesting conversations, ones that don't resolve easily. Heaven is not much comfort to the eight-year-old, who has pressing concerns in the here and now. Maybe not much to older folks, either.

We both slept well, though, and are greeting the morning with renewed energy.

I'm off to get this computer upgraded to OX 10.4.something. Wish me luck

*Yes, he really did say he was thinking about his mortality. In the midst of this conversation, I'm noting his excellent vocabulary with maternal pride.


Kelly said...

What a great post. I remember a similar conversation with Tyler at around that age, also at bedtime. Now I'm wishing I'd written it down. Smart kid you have there.

Susan said...

I think that's amazing. I bet Nick will grow up to be a theologian. He's so thoughtful.

I don't think either of my kids (11 and 15) even know what the word "mortality" means!!!

Theoretical Vegetarian Guardian said...

Since you haven't written the Will yet, you could stipulate that we serve him meat twice a week if that would reassure him. Not that it will ever come to this (throwing salt over shoulder as I type), but I'd even make him your tuna casserole!
Poor worrying guy. He reminds me of me.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

I have a son much like Nick. It is one of the greatest joys of my life that he is such a thoughtful person and that I can have such deep, meaningful conversations with a 9-year-old.

But he too would be worried about the food thing... ;-)

Lilian said...

What a deep conversation. I think (and hope) it will be like that with my oldest boy, he's very sensitive and thoughtful.

Masha said...

Libby, this is an amazing post. Thank you for sharing this. xo