Our kids have been very blessed with not having any close friends or family members keel over.
Well… at least not until in the very near future.
You see, their grandma on my wife’s side, has been recently diagnosed with a very aggressive form of lung cancer that’s in the final stage. The long and short of it is, is that her long term outcome has been drastically shortened. Her doctors have recommended Hospice, and my wife actually flew out to see her this week, to say what very well may be their last goodbyes in person.
For as heartbreaking as this all sounds, my mother-in-law is not the type of person to sit in bed during her final weeks, wearing a shawl, and holding court with her well wishers. She is hellbent* on going out of this life just as she lived it. Smoking, drinking, and cursing all the way. I actually asked my wife to tell her that now might be the most opportune time for her to lift whatever curses she’s put on me over the years.
Anyway, for all her offensive behavior, the old bat** really is quite endearing. To make this even more difficult, is that she’s played a fairly decent sized role in our kids lives, especially the last couple years. Recently though, with her living so far away, the kids haven’t seen her or had much contact, besides the occasional “hello” over the phone.
That being said, this leaves us with having to approach the subject of her dying, with the kids.
Or, since she now lives across the country, we can just avoid it altogether and send the kids a card every once in a while, signed, “Grandma Trish,” and pretend nothing ever happened.
Yeah. So, not that our kids lead a sheltered life by any means, but their only experience with death and dying is when they bonk each other over the head with a shovel in Minecraft, and steal each other’s lives. And pigs. And whatever other little trinkets and shit these Minecraft people are so consumed with.
And I’m not exactly the most perfect person to discuss this stuff either. I’ve suffered for years with panic attacks and horrible health anxiety. I sneeze, and I think I’m done in. I get the heebie jeebies just driving past a hospital, let alone having to discuss the process of death and dying.
I’m more concerned with my wife and what she’s going through right now. She doesn’t need the added hurt of having to discuss what her mother is going through, to little kids, who will surely have questions. Questions that she may not want to answer just yet. If she’s up to it, fine. But I love the woman, and I’m going to do whatever I can to make this whole thing easier on her. It truly does break my heart to see what this is doing to her. And her mom.
And heck, I spent many years in the EMS field. I know about this stuff. I just have to put aside my own silly, irrational fears, and man up. So, I decided to break it to the kids, what was going on.
As I sat all three of them down, I couldn’t help but feel one big thing as I looked at their cherubic little faces…
This would be so much easier if I was still drinking.
Me: Guys, I just wanna let you know that mommy went to see gramma cause she’s dying.
Tommy (8): Mommy’s dying!?
Emma (5): WHAT!!?? WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!
Raylan (3): SEA WORLD!!!
Me: No! No! No! Mommy’s not dying! Jeez. Mommy’s just fine. Em, stop crying.
Tommy: Oh, ok. Good. She yells alot, but I don’t want mommy to die.
Emma: *sniff* So, mommy’s not dying?
Me: No, honey. Mommy’s not dying. It’s gramma who’s dying.
Emma: *blink-blink-blink* UGGGGAAAAAAAAAAAA WAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!
Tommy: Are worms gonna come out of her nose holes?
Me: Em…stop, sweetie. Tommy. No. Wait…what? Worms?
Raylan: AAAUUUUGGGHHHHHHH! WORM! WORM! WORM! WORM!
Me: Raylan! Stop! No worms are coming out of anyone’s nose holes.
Tommy: Why’s she dying? Did she get runned over by a huge truck? Or a reindeer. Like the song!
Me: No buddy. No huge truck. And don’t be a smartass. Reindeer. She’s just very sick. Gramma use to smoke alot and smoking isn’t good for you.
Tommy: Didn’t you smoke?
Emma: *sniff-sniff blink-blink*
Me: Yes. But I quit a long, long time ago.
Tommy: So, are you gonna die now too?
Emma: *sniff-sni…* NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! DADDDDDDDDYYYYYYYYY!
Me: Emma. EMMA! OW!! Stop climbing on daddy, I’m fine. I’m not dying. I’m ok.
Raylan: An da big whales make spashes at Sea World an an it goes FWAPOOOSHHHH!!!!
Emma: RAYLAN!!! STOP SPITTING, YOU STOOPIT ASSHOLE!!!
Me: Em…stop hitting Raylan. And please stop calling your little brother an asshole. He didn’t mean it. Em. Em? STOP!!!
Raylan: (in sing song voice) Emma is a fi-hish. A big, fat, stoopit fi-hish…
Me: Guys! Knock it off! Can we just get back to gramma dying. PLEASE!
Tommy: So, where’s she gonna go when she dies? Another world?
Me: Another world? Like Heaven? Yeah. She’s gonna go to heaven.
Tommy: She’s gonna respawn in Heaven?
Emma: Ooooh. If she respawns in Heaven, will she let us in that world? Tommy! I wonder if there’s Creepers there! Daddy will gramma get to beat the Creepers?
Me: Creepers? What the fu…
Tommy: Don’t be dumb, Emma. There’s no Creepers in Heaven. Only God and Jesus.
Emma: Will Jeebus try and set my house on fire? And take my pigs? Member when you said you wouldn’t set my house on fire and then you did?
Tommy: If he tries to set your house on fire, just hit him with a pick axe.
Emma: Ooooh. Coooool. I yike the pick axe.
Raylan: An…an…an…an..I like Sharko and Grizz!!!
Emma: Shut up Raylan. You don’t even know what me an daddy an Tommy are talking about.
Raylan: You shut up, Emma. Sharko told me he’s gonna bite you in your face-nose. And then you gonna havta eat on your own boogers. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! FISHY FACE FACE EMMA HA!!!
Tommy, Emma, Raylan: *blink-blink-blink-blink*
Me: Guys. Do you even understand what I’m talking about? At all?
Emma: Gramma’s gonna go see Jeebus an then they’re gonna smoke alot.
Tommy: No dummy! Gramma’s going to Heaven because she smoked alot. Jesus is gonna tell her she can’t smoke there. Heaven is no smoking. Duh.
Raylan: Does Jeebus like werewoofs?
So that’s what that was like. The kids have really no concept of death or dying besides what they know from Minecraft. And that isn’t exactly close to reality. To be honest with you, I don’t even know if this a bad thing. They’re eventually gonna find out the hurt and sadness behind it. And I’m sure that they’ll learn to cope and recover from that hurt and sadness too. Maybe for the time being though, I should let them stay as far away from it as possible. It’s not that I want them kept in some kinda bubble or something, but I don’t really want them weighed down with heavy stuff just yet either. Kids are just so fragile, man. Call me what you want, but if I can keep that sadness and hurt away from them a bit longer, so be it. And Grandma Trish ain’t even gone yet. Who knows? Maybe she’ll stick around awhile longer. The shit that woman has lived through, nothing would surprise me.
So, what would you do?
* Probably the wrong terminology to use regarding a person in her current position, but it really is quite fitting. Let’s just hope that “hellbent” doesn’t mean “hellbound,” if you know what I mean.
** If ever there was a more affectionate term I could think of for her, it escapes me. Believe it or not, when I say “old bat,” I mean it with nothing but love.