On Saturday I was sitting on the floor of the dingy hallway at the high school waiting for my boys to come out of the locker room after their swim lessons. As luck would have it a fellow widow friend was also waiting for her son and we were enjoying ourselves gossiping, eavesdropping on the pom pon girls as they flitted up and down the hallway preparing for their tryouts, and being entertained by her almost four year old.
When my boys emerged into the hallway with their wet heads and red eyes I introduced them to my friend's son, who at this point was lying on his side and spinning in a slow circle on the floor. He stopped spinning, looked at my boys and said;
"My daddy is dead."
I thought this was interesting since he had no reason to connect my boys with their dad being dead like his, and it's not as if his dad just died, it has been a few years. I told him I was sorry and that my boys' father was dead also, then we said our goodbyes and the three of us meandered down the hallway and out to our car, the promised donuts on our minds.
Later that same day, in the middle of a crowded and loud restaurant, Henry brought this interaction up and told me he didn't think "the boy really knew that his dad was dead, as in never coming back."
"Why not?" I asked him.
Henry explained to me that the boy looked about the same age he had been when his dad died and that he hadn't understood what it meant "back then" when Bob died.
"I thought he was coming back," Henry said evenly.
I have to admit this statement surprised me.
I know he was only 3 1/2 at the time but he seemed so on board with everything, as if he really got IT.
"Do you think that now?" I asked him with more than a little trepidation.
"Not really, kind of, like 92% I know that he's not coming back but 8% of me thinks that he's still alive."
"It's like when Dad first died there was this tiny spot in me that understood the truth," he says this cupping his hands in a tiny circle near his heart and hunching his shoulders and head forward, "and slowly the spot grew and grew and grew until there was only a tiny spot left that still thinks he's alive somewhere." When he described this last part his voice became quite theatrical and he lifted his head up, brought back his shoulders and threw his arms up in the universal sign for victory.
I was jealous of Henry's description of his tiny spot, which sounded more pleasant than my tiny spot. What I felt was more of an enormous dark stain that covered me in darkness with an occasional tiny spot of light fighting its way through. Then my tiny spot grew and grew too, until eventually I was mostly in the light with only occasional darkness.
What's interesting to me is that in the beginning Henry's tiny spot seemed to be the dark part and my tiny spot was the light part. But Henry's spot did not appear to get darker as it grew, not the way he described it anyway. Both of our tiny spots brought us into the light as they grew, each in our own way.
Henry's little body and emotions could only take on the enormity of what had happened to him in little bits, a tiny spot. I love the image of Henry opening up as his tiny spot of understanding grows, not shutting down with the weight of the truth but being lightened by it.
I also love that he still reserves a tiny spot where Bob still lives within him.
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