A few weeks ago my mum had to have one of her dogs put down because he was riddled with cancer.
She was utterly devastated. The dog was only 5 years old and was her best buddy. My mum breeds show dogs and is hugely successful in her field. She has had dogs for the past 30 odd years and she is that successful because she adores her dogs. They are her other children and they are her friends.
And so the loss of her companion came as a massive body blow.
Which is something I had to explain to my two children and, as we don’t have a dog, it wasn’t going to be an easy concept for them to grasp.
But grasp it they did. With both hands. And now they are obsessed with death.
“Mia, where is the beanbag?”
She raises her eyes to the air to think.”Don’t know. I think it’s dead.”
“Mia, don’t lean back on that chair or it could topple backwards and you will crack your head.”
“And then I’ll die?”
“Don’t do that Mia, or you’ll die”, Dan the voice doom if Mia is fiddling with her seatbelt/touching the oven/attempting to unlock the front door.
Mia: “Shall we stop feeding Lily (our cat) for a few days so she’ll die and then she can be with nana’s dog and he can chase her?”
Dan (very matter of factly). “Mummy, you’re going to die before me aren’t you because you’re old and I’m not. But I’ll die before Mia. But she’ll only be on her own for a few years because then she’ll die.”
I’m sat there with my fingers in my ears going ‘la la la la la’ pretending that the fly trying to make a break for the back door is the most interesting thing I’ve ever witnessed and this child in front of me is talking about Ben 10 or Crazy Bones (now there’s a post I must write!)
Children are so open and honest and literal. They don’t know that I find conversations like that really upsetting. They don’t know that I can’t bear to hear them say the words “I’ll die”. It’s just another part of life to them. They haven’t yet been ‘tainted’ by regret.
My grandfather died when my son was just 2 and Dan still talks about it now.
I have told him that he sat on his greatgrandpop’s hospital bed and the pair of them sang The Grand Old Duke of York together and Pop bounced Dan on his knee, even though it was probably an incredible effort for him to do so.
And I have told Dan that if he were alive today Pop would be so very very proud of him. My grandfather was a grumpy old sod from the valleys of Wales, but his aged eyes lit up with a youthful glow whenever he talked to his greatgrandson.
And that is a memory I hold very dear.
I have also talked to Dan about my Nan, who died just a couple of years before either of my children were born. I have told him than my one great regret in life is that she never got to meet him or Mia and that she too would have found clouds under her feet and a spring in her step if she had been around to enjoy their company.
I have told both of them that Pop and Nan are watching over them and can see the wonderful things they do and the things they achieve and they will know what fabulous individuals their greatgrand children are.
Which has kind of backfired on me a little as last night Mia woke in the night and wouldn’t go back to sleep in her own room because “Nana’s dog is watching me.”