What can one say…
I was floored by my son’s request this morning.
It has been on my mind ever since. A heaviness in my heart.
I shared it with a couple of friends who were sympathetic.
These are the kinds of things that stop me in my tracks.
Blake is my older son and the father of six-year old Aiden.
Aiden is bright, engaged, mischievous.
He is a blessing. He is blessed with a loving family.
He enjoys a loving relationship with his maternal Grandfather and two maternal Great-Grandfathers.
The highlight of his summer is to spend time with his mother’s family on the family farm in Kansas riding the tractor and “helping” with the chores.
Someone is missing.
On his paternal side, there are no close male relatives.
His paternal grandfather (my husband) died before he was born.
He does have a loving, paternal grandmother (me!).
Somehow in his young mind, he has come to realize that he is missing a grandfather. His Dad’s Dad to be exact.
There are pictures in his house and mementos of his Grandfather Dan.
His Dad tells him stories about Grandfather Dan who died before he was born.
We never thought much about it. We shelved the story of his Grandfather Dan for when he was older.
In the back of our collective minds, we have been a bit wistful at times wishing that Dan was still alive to know and enjoy his little grandson.
He would be a terrific, loving grandparent teaching Aiden to fish, ride bikes and motorcycles, repair cars and everything else.
We have felt this loss for Aiden.
However, we did not really think about Aiden missing him.
In school, he made a family poster with pictures of all of his relatives.
Perhaps that is when he started to realize that there was a key person missing.
At family gatherings, his Mother’s family gathers en masse. On his Dad’s side, it is usually just me.
He started sleeping with his departed Grandfather Dan’s racing jersey under his pillow.
Then last night, he fell apart. His Mom and Dad tried to comfort him while he sobbed that he just “wanted to talk with my Grandfather Dan”.
Tears welled up when my son told me his response.
“Yes, I know Aiden. I miss my Dad too and I want talk with him.”
Loss is universal
This incident stopped my world.
It reminded me of the scene from The Little Prince when the pilot stopped working to comfort the little Prince who is worried about his rose being eaten by a sheep.
“On his fifth day in the desert, the little prince wonders if his new sheep will eat both bushes and flowers. The pilot, who is trying to repair his plane, replies that sheep will eat anything, and the little prince asks him what use a flower’s thorns are if they don’t protect the flower. The pilot, frustrated with his engine and worried by his lack of food and water, yells that he is too busy with “serious matters” to answer the prince’s questions. Furious, the little prince accuses the pilot of acting like a grown-up instead of seeing what’s really important. The little prince argues that if a truly unique flower exists on a person’s planet, nothing is more important than wondering if a sheep will eat that flower. He then bursts into tears. Suddenly realizing that his new friend’s happiness is the most serious matter of all, the narrator cradles the little prince in his arms and comforts him by assuring the little prince that his flower will be fine. He offers to draw a muzzle for the sheep.
“If some one loves a flower of which just one example exists among all the millions and millions of stars, that’s enough to make him happy. . . . But if the sheep eats the flower, then for him it’s as if, suddenly, all the stars went out.”
“Would you be willing to send some of your pictures of Dad so I can hang them in Aiden’s room?” my son asked after telling me the story of Aiden’s meltdown.
Of course, I will send photos.
I will send mementos.
I will make it a point to travel to Denver often.
I will video chat weekly when I can’t be there.
I will send letters to Aiden.
These things will make me feel better.
I hope they will make Aiden feel better.
A silver lining
This incident drew me closer to my son as it provided an opportunity to talk about the loss of his Dad.
Young men trying to grow into manhood often don’t talk about feelings even in tragic circumstances.
Mothers learn not to ask, not to probe. We just wait.
There was one wry comment about “now being a member of the Dead Dad’s Club”. Otherwise, neither of my sons have spoken very much about the death of their Dad.
They sat stony-faced at his funeral.
My sweet grandson Aiden,
You will never know your Grandfather Dan.
You are his only grandson. You will carry on the family name.
Someday, if you are lucky, you will share stories of the grandfather you never met with your children.
Just know that every time your Dad hugs you he is passing on the love he received from his Dad.
Your Dad and I also miss him and “just want to talk to him” once more.
People in this post
Blake: my son and the father of Aiden
Aiden: Blake’s son and my grandson
Dan: Blake’s Dad, Aiden’s Grandfather Dan, my late husband