Friday, May 23, 2014

MORE CONFESSIONS: Families Come in Many Shapes and Sizes

Our first photo session as a new family.

My kids developed a knack for making comments that alarmed me on a regular basis and could often stop any conversation midsentence.  Remember that old Bill Cosby show Kids Say the Darndest Things?  Well, those kids had nothing on my own who had many thoughts and questions when it came to their dad and his death - and had no problem sharing them at any given time.

Sarah, in the beginning, had no filter.  I'll never forget swimming with her at the local indoor pool, when she was a toddler and watching her play with another little girl.  I don't know what prompted this, but I suddenly heard the echo of Sarah's voice from across the water:  "Oh yeah?  Well, my daddy's dead. DEAD!"

And then I watched the other child quickly swim away from her.

While Sarah seemed to come up with these little comments for shock value, Michael just wanted
information.  His questions, while difficult for me to answer, were part of his process and as time went on, I began to practice age-appropriate honesty:  answering those questions as truthfully as I could at a level I thought he could understand.

"Mom?" he asked me when he was about four.  "What does 'extinct' mean?"

And I told him, "It means that something isn't around anymore.  Like the dinosaurs are extinct."

There was a silence as he pondered that one.  Then he asked, "So is Dad extinct?"

Pause.  "Yes.  I guess he is."

It was a question that really made sense when you think about it...especially to a four-year-old boy. But, of course, as he got older, the questions got harder.  And once we had had some space and time away from Brad's death, they were also more jarring when he asked them because I wasn't expecting them.

"Was there a lot of blood on the road when Daddy had his accident?" he asked me about three years into our new life.

""I said, trying to catch a glimpse of him in the rearview mirror so that I could see his face.  "Why do you ask?"  

"I was just wondering," he said, as if he had just asked what was for dinner.

For some reason these questions always seemed to arise when we were in the car.  It could have been that just being on the road reminded him that his dad was in an accident and that he still needed more information to complete the puzzle that had become the life we were living.  It could have been that there was something about the quiet rocking of the car that made him think deeply about things he was normally too busy to contemplate.  Or he could have just been testing my skills as a driver, wondering what it would take to throw me off enough to crash through the door of the coal Dairy Queen so that he could get a Blizzard.

With kids, it's always hard to pinpoint their motivation.


Five, three, and one when their father died (and now twelve, ten, and eight), my kids' memory of that time is a little sketchy.  But I did ask them a few gentle questions about that time in our lives, as well as some questions about their favorite things about our family now.  This was an eye-opening interview for me and I'm so grateful to my kids for their honesty.

This interview was a reminder to me that life does go on.

1.  What is your favorite Daddy Day memory?

Haley:  This wasn't even a good memory!  The one that I remember best was when we tried to see a movie and we were late and couldn't get in.  Then we tried to go bowling and we couldn't get a lane.  But with all of them, I just remember being together.
Michael:  My favorite Daddy Day memory was when we got balloons and they all popped but one.  We all got to let go of one balloon.
Sarah: My favorite Daddy Day memory is getting balloons and letting them go.

2.  When you went to Judi's House (group therapy for kids), what was your favorite thing to do?

Haley:  I didn't have a favorite thing.  I didn't like going.  I didn't like hearing other peoples' sad stories.  I didn't like getting treated like there was something wrong with me.  I can do anything a normal person can do.
Michael:  Probably to go to the room that had all the mats and foam things and stuffed animals.
Sarah:  Mom, I was only three when I went!  I don't remember.

3.  How do you help a friend who is sad?

Haley:  You don't have to say anything.  You just need to be there and listen to them.  No one wants to be alone.
Michael:  I try to be with them and talk to them more often.
Sarah:  I go and try to be friends so we can talk about their problems.

4.  What is your favorite thing to do as a family?

Haley:  Eat dinner together.  I love when we all sit around the table and say the things that made our day good and the things that were bad.  And everyone listens to each other.
Michael:  Go to amusement parks!
Sarah:  My favorite thing to do as a family is go see a movie.

5.  Do you have a favorite holiday tradition?

Haley:  I love when Pop and Nana come over on almost every holiday.  We are all together.
Michael:  When we always sit at the top of the stairs when mom goes and wakes up Pop and Nana.  Then we get to come down and see our presents.
Sarah:  My favorite holiday tradition is watching movies on Easter in our pajamas.

We love you, Dad.


  1. Beautiful sentiments. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Look how beautiful you all are! Thanks so very much for sharing your experience and your growth. You are such a help to us, your virtual friends. Love and best wishes to you all.

  3. Such honesty and wisdom in your children.....You have done a wonderful job in raising them. You keep the memory of their father alive and that is awesome.