Thursday, April 17, 2014

Can I have a Do-Over?

As parents, bereaved parents, we need to take time and appreciate that we are doing a good job.  Heck some days I am doing a great job.  Other days I just want a do-over; reset and let me try that one again.
At a recent busy sporting event I had my oldest with me for the entire day and it was nice to have time devoted to Mom and Biggest kid.  After the event we were invited back to another family's house and my son wanted to go, so we did.  There were about 5 teenage athletes that came back with us and hung out in another part of the house while I was having tea with the mom getting to know one another.  It wasn't long before there were six teenagers were hanging out in the kitchen with us - possibly scavenging for food but in the vicinity nonetheless.  The other mom was commenting on the age gap between my boys, asking all of their ages specifically.  Before I could answer the Biggest replied "We have another brother but we lost him."
The 5 other teenagers stopped chatting and the mother asked him what he said (kindly) and all I could think was did the air just get sucked out of the room?

My Biggest said again "We had another brother, Flynn, he was three years younger then me and we lost him."  I corrected him - it was all I could do - "Honey you are correct and he died, shortly after he was born."  The mother was sympathetic, if not completely thrown for a loop. The teenagers were fascinated, the Biggest continued to chat about his brother as they headed back downstairs and I was left feeling exposed,like my secret identity had been revealed.
I have learned that talking about Flynn is easier for me if I feel ready and prepared for the conversation. It is a very intentional act and something that I do not bring into casual relationships.  I guess some would call it guarded.  My Biggest charges into this discussion with a different perspective and understanding of his relationship to his brother.

When we left the house I talked to the Biggest about bringing up Flynn.  I started by letting him know that it was okay to talk about Flynn but that saying things like "we lost him" is confusing when in actuality he died.  I tried to help him see how vocabulary can change the intent of the message. Then I asked him why he brought up Flynn and although I meant it out of curiousity, a part of it was due to my own discomfort.
"He is my brother and if people want to know me they will know about him. I always tell people about him, usually right away."
"Well buddy it is just a very vulnerable aspect of who you are and I worry about you sharing that with people too soon." Even now as a type this I wonder, did I really say that and yep I did.
"I want people to know about him; he was a human being too you know?"
I stopped.  It really was that simple, wasn't it.  Here I was complicating it, caving into societal expectations and definitions of life, death and the value associated with both. Here was my man-child simplifying it down to the root - a place I rarely touched anymore and sadly he thought I didn't realize how human Flynn is.
"That he was, a very special one too."
Where is that parent Do-over button when you need it?

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