I’ve had a rough week. A rough month really if you add in trying to adjust to my husband being deployed to Iraq and then the house slowly falling apart as the air conditioner goes out and mystery leak shows up in the garage closet. Then one minute you are trying to pick out a Father’s Day card, and the next you are planning a trip to a funeral.
Last week my father had a massive heart attack and stroke. He was on life support but the prognosis was dim. On Saturday my sweet dog Sierra, who’s stood by me through four deployments and always been my puppy to cry on, had a bad seizure that she didn’t really come out of. She was nearly 16 and there wasn’t anything we could do for her but end her suffering. As I was driving home from the emergency vet, I called to check on my dad and learned they had taken him off life support. The next day was Father’s Day.
After hanging on for a few more days, my father passed away last night, and now I’m trying to plan our trip to where he lived in Missouri. This will be my first time traveling alone with my four-year-old son. I am trying to not be overwhelmingly sad in front of my son because he just doesn’t get it. As I broke down and cried this morning after learning the news, he peed on the floor and then literally laughed in my face. He is potty trained and hasn’t done this in a long time. Apparently we have different ways of dealing with grief.
I have no idea how a child processes all this. I don’t remember dealing with anything like this when I was his age. No pets passed away and no family members. I was in my 20’s before I went to my first funeral. We have a young family. My mom and dad had me in their teens and I didn’t think I’d have to deal with this until many years from now.
But here I am.
My son is going with me on this trip. Even if he does act up, I’d rather have him with me than be alone. I am hoping he will be sweet to his grandmother. I want her to see that her son lives on in my son. He is our next generation. And he lives on in all his children. (there are 3 of us, I’m the oldest) My father won’t know we are there, but my grandmother will have all of us there for her.
I want to be strong, but I feel like tears are always there threatening to fall. I feel like I’m all cried out and then another round comes out of nowhere. My son seems like he doesn’t register my tears, though he makes a huge deal if he cries even if it’s just because I went first up the stairs. He demands comfort and kisses for his wailing about nothing, but gives me the briefest of hugs when I try to tell him I’m sad and he could help me by being sweet. I don’t know when kids develop empathy, but mine seems to be behind the learning curve on emotions beyond those that serve his own needs.
On the other hand, dealing with a small child is part of what’s keeping me going. I can’t curl up in a ball and just hide. I have to make food, give baths, and keep on playing with him like it’s any other day. I’m grateful to have friends that have taken him for a few hours here and there so I can take care of things like packing and planning.
As sad as things are, I don’t want the trip to be all doom and gloom for him. I want him to enjoy traveling and riding on an airplane. I don’t want him to associate airports with mommy being sad. So I’m going to try and keep things fun for him. And maybe making him smile will help me find my own smile through this whole ordeal.
If anyone has been through something like this with a small child, and has any advice on how they handled it, I’m all ears.