Thursday, April 26, 2012

Stepping Through

How do you talk about death with your kids, especially if their mother--mommy--died?

I've wrestled with this quite a bit lately. The boys are doing okay, but I don't want to completely shelter them from their feelings. I don't want to hide my grieving, either, because they need to know it's okay to cry and be angry and sad and...

Aunt Heather loaned me a few books about death/children the other day, one of them being a parable about water bugs and dragonflies. You can find a copy on Amazon or simply read the parable for free online. It's a nice story, and one which I hope reflects how the universe really works. Of course, I have no idea how the universe really works. I wish I did.

Those of you who know me well know how much "existential questioning" I do. Now that Aimee is gone, those questions are heavier. They really pull at me, especially at night when I'm trying to go to sleep or wake up at four AM expecting to hear Elliot (and don't--that kid is a world-champ sleeper).

Last night, I thought of a story I'd written several years ago, "The World in Rubber, Soft and Malleable". It's still one of my favorite stories, originally published at A Fly in Amber and reprinted (in slightly different form) in Triangulation: End of the Rainbow--

I like the way it reads at A Fly in Amber... No explanation of what is beyond the doors. That's where I am right now: on one side of the door. Aimee has stepped through and I can't follow. Not yet. I've got more murals to paint before I join her... Too many to count.

And yes, that is a metaphor from the story.

I frame my world with metaphors. 

When I wrote the "The World in Rubber..." I wasn't thinking about death. But it works. It fits perfectly how I feel right now.

I miss you, Ziggs.  

(a woodcut of a dragonfly from UK artist Christine Howes)


Daniel Powell said...

Ah, Aaron...this is hard to read, but I'm sure you're doing a great job by those boys. Many murals to paint and many more to admire, if those kids follow in their old man's footsteps!

K.C. Shaw said...

I've always liked your "The World in Rubber..." story too. And I hadn't thought about it's being a metaphor for death either, but boy is it perfect.

I can't imagine having to explain to kids that Mommy won't be coming back. Wow. I admire your strength, seriously.

Aaron Polson said...

Thanks, Daniel. We're doing the best we can.

K.C. - Thanks. I'm glad it looks like strength. Feels a little like trying to glue together a giant vase which keeps crumbling... Funny how stories do what they need to do when we need them.

Sara Ziegler said...

The parable was really neat, I think the boys will like it. You are an amazing dad. The boys will always miss Aimee and they will always remember the amazing love, guidance, and support you give them everyday. You have so much Aimee in you, and the boys will always see that. World's greatest dad takes on new meaning when you look at the job you are doing.

Lane said...

How about making a "Mommy book" with each boy over the summer? Each book could contain pictures of that child and Aimee, along with drawings (yours and/or theirs) and stories (yours and/or theirs) and whatever else you want to put in there. It's a way to start conversation, a way for them to express what they are feeling without having to articulate, and something they can keep forever to remind themselves how much she loved them.

Aaron Polson said...

Awww, Sara. I'm just doing what I can. Thanks.

Lane - Great idea. I'm going to chew on this one a bit...

Cate Gardner said...

Oh man, that post tugged at my heartstrings.

And you know I've always loved that short story - I shall reread it again today with new eyes.

Katey said...

That's still one of my favorite short stories. And I don't mean of yours, but I mean in general, ever. Like Cate, next time I read it, it'll be with new eyes. (And I do re-read it periodically.)

Thank you for sharing these things with us, as well as your stories about Aimee.

Anonymous said...

Praying and thinking of you all often. Lisa O

Anonymous said...

Hi Aaron,
I've read some of your brilliant work and check out your site from time to time. Although you don't know me I just wanted to send you and your boys my love and best wishes,
Priya (Sharma)

Jane said...

Hi Aaron. I put your most recent blog post on my FB wall after reading it via Steve Maceli's post. I've gotten an enormous response to what you wrote and all thank you profusely for writing about this disease and sharing Aimee's battle with it, as well as yours.

Tonight I was reading a book of art by Maurice Sendack to my 5 year old son and came upon his acceptance speech for the Caldecott Medal he won for "Where the Wild Things Are". I thought it spoke well to our children's ability to deal with their emotions.

"Certainly we want to protect our children from new and painful experiences that are beyond their emotional comprehension and that intensify anxiety; and to a point we can prevent premature exposure to such experiences. That is obvious. But what is just as obvious-and what is too often overlooked-is the fact that from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, that fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, that they continually cope with frustration as best they can. And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things."

Your gift for writing will be a gift for your children to work through their grief and the all the emotions that come with the loss of their mom.

Thanks again for sharing all that you have.

Jane M. Casteline (I knew Aimee from Douthart)

Aaron Polson said...

Cheers, Jane. I'd never read that quote from Mr. Sendak, but I love the Wild Things. As an adult, I've found fantasy to be the best method I have for understanding the world. Take care.

Machaela said...

Re: Great children's books about death, try The Invisible String by Karst. I actually liked the book just for me.