Thursday, September 13, 2007

Driving at night

We're driving across the valley from Mt. Harris. The kids have been craning their necks trying to keep track of the Big Dipper and the North Star in the night sky. Beth and I are hoping one or both of the kids will have fallen asleep by the time we reach home, but the signs point toward a rather different outcome. We eavesdrop on their conversation and we hear Tess patiently explaining something to her brother.
"Grandma and grandpa, they used to be mommy's mommy and daddy. Just like Mommy is our mommy."
Beth breaks in, "They still are sweetie. They will always be my mommy and daddy. Just Daddy and I will always be your mommy and daddy."
Colm says, "Daddy will always be our daddy?"
"Even when you're dead?"
I look at Tess in the rear view mirror. She and Colm have been sniffing around this topic for weeks now. Saying things and looking at us, waiting for something. Only a few days earlier, Tess seemed to experience a sort of epiphany on the subject. She had been playing with a doll when she began talking about what she might name her own baby. She seemed to favor the names Susyanna and Charlie, both of which struck Beth and I as very considered choices. Then suddenly Tess said, "When grandpa and grandma die then you and daddy will be Charlie's grandma and grandpa, and then when Charlie gets big, he'll have a baby, and then you'll will be dead and I'll be a grandma."
"Me too!" said Colm.
I remember thinking how breathtakingly she had effaced two generations and closed the circle. Beth and I stared at her as if trying to ascertain whether she had indeed listened to her own words but the surface of a child is as impenetrable as that of the deepest sea.
Meanwhile Tess's question remains unanswered. I say the first thing that comes to mind.
"Yup. Even when I'm dead. I'll be your dead daddy." I'm a little taken aback by own response, though part of me wonders if I haven't stumbled on a cool blues lick.
"Tess?" says Colm.
"When we're big... can I live with you?"
Tess pauses but not for long. She seems preoccupied, but her response sounds unconflicted, matter of fact. "No... But you can visit all the time."
"Can I visit too?" asks Beth.
"We can all visit all the time!" says Colm.
Then Colm says nothing for awhile. The two lane road ahead is dark and empty and I hazard some extended looks in the mirror. The kids are looking straight ahead between the two of us...out there at somewhere we haven't quite gotten to yet. It's Colm who breaks the silence, his voice high and plaintive.
"Yeah sweetie?"
"I don't want you to die."
Already I repent of my glib comment. Colm has not the ear nor the soul for irony. But he has sensitive skin and he feels the frisson of fear. He no sooner heard "dead daddy" than he sought to somehow to get some guarantee against losing his two remaining human landmarks in the world, his sister and his mother. His deepest yearnings are tied to his family.
It's easy to pretend that it's otherwise for me, to be diffident in the face of death, or at least the mention of death, but in truth, I'm no different from my little boy. It's not just that I want to live; it's that I want to be always in the bosom of my family. Just like Colm does.
All I can do is keep my hands firmly on the wheel and keep driving.


Blogger adam jk gallardo said...

Hi, Kevin,

I posted a poem (not by me) that immediatewly came to mind after I read this entry.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous erin said...

Wow- that's some heavy stuff. What is it about that road?

9:11 AM  

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