Dear Jake,

(7 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

How unfair this life I have given you. You are wise beyond your years, but underneath that sunny disposition life has already lain fears that no child should carry.

You floored me when over your bowl of cereal, sitting next to me at the table this morning with your nonchalant, “I don’t want to grow up.” I figured it was just you riffing off what you had said a moment ago, teasing the dogs. “Poor dogs!” as they begged you to pet them and you complied, “It must be such a bad life, laying around, doing nothing, playing, getting fed… no work, no school, no problems. Being a dog is the Life!” You were laughing and light. But you what you said about growing up you said with such solemn commitment, I knew you were serious.

So when I asked “Why?” I didn’t see your answer coming. “I don’t want to die.”

You equate growing up with dying now, not surprisingly after watching your Gramma die, and then seeing your Dad get sick with cancer the following month. “Even at 80 or something, I don’t want to get old and sick and die. I’d rather just stay a kid.” Most kids cannot wait to grow up – you equate it with dying now.

That sucks on so many levels.

It took me years to get over the damage done by my childhood, if one can ever get over that completely. Surrounded by death and dysfunction, including an abusive Mother who chose to live in perpetual mourning and refused to accept death as part of life.

I tried to talk to you about the good parts of growing up, the choices that open to you. Where you go, how you live, what you can explore on your own and learn. You said it would be great to make those choices, and I reminded you that you make your own choices every day. “You are out there in the world on your own at school – and your Dad and I cannot help you or make your choices for you. You are making great choices already for your future. Look at your report card!’ You gleamed a bit.

Then you added the kicker… something I fear as well. Mike is coughing again like the beginning 6 months ago. “Every time I hear Dad cough like that I think the Cancer is back and is killing him again.”

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

I tried to reassure you, and we have to talk more about that when you are not leaving for the bus. Its a valid fear, and I shouldn’t just brush it off. Not that I did. But neither of us could afford a good cry before facing the public.

Then you went back to it, something you rarely do. “But still, Mom, ultimately growing up means closer to dying.”

I told you I’m not afraid of dying, and that really isn’t a lie. “I’m in no hurry or anything,” I said, “but I am fairly sure one way or another I’ll have much more to do on the other side.” You gave me that look, the ‘Ok, my Mom has gone bat-shit crazy‘ look you do so well with your little smile. “Really? Ok then….”  Maybe I should have given you religion and hope. Instead I gave you, or so I thought spirituality and wonder. You want there to be a Heaven. I’m so sorry.

Death is part of life. We are part of a circle, and if death crippled every living being from fear, anger, resentment, no one would be able to function because everyone dies. No life is untouched by it, it is all around them. Some more than others… but still.

I know, you watch the news, and documentaries, and talk with us. I hear you rage against the insanity of killing the planet, the oil spills, the war, the greed, the homophobia and racism. Hell, you were only about 6 when you noticed, and railed, “How come they always kill the black guy off first?” about action movies. “Even movies make blacks expendable!” I beamed at your social awareness and perception, and even more because my 1st grader just used, ‘expendable’ in a sentence. I’ve even hear you say, “I am embarrassed to be human sometimes, Mom. We are a really sick species.”

God. Have I jaded you too much by not talking down to you? I didn’t want to make you fear your future that much, I just wanted you to be aware and to care. I wanted you to be a free thinker, that they couldn’t assimilate. Heck, you YOU! changed the curriculum at Lakeland K-4 yourself, by challenging the teacher about Columbus Day.

But now you equate growing up with dying.

What have I done to you? What have I done, to this boy who spends so much time laughing with me, making me cry laughing, to such a pure and caring heart? You always put even your parents first, others first, friends first. You are the epitome of unselfishness.

I cannot protect you from death, even the death of your own Dad, should the worst occur in the future. Nor can I protect you from my own some day.

I just don’t want you to fear it. The whole mortality self-realization shouldn’t be for another 4 years. I mean, thats a teenage thing, to act immortal and reckless, yet dwell somewhat the realization their their existence is finite. God, if you are worried now, what will you think THEN?

How do I teach you that Life is a Gift to be enjoyed each moment, not a fleeting thing to be hoarded, worried over and angered by?

8, or 80, its a good day to be alive? to never count down, but to count forward?

Oh, Jake.

I am so sorry this is your life now.

You deserve so much better than this. You are my miracle boy.

I love you.

18 comments

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    • Diane G on January 25, 2011 at 3:14 pm
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  1. When Prince Siddhartha was growing up, his father, who was the King and Emperor, decided that he didn’t want Prince S to know anything about death and sickness and aging.  So he constructed a world for his son in the palace– he was never free to leave– in which he never encountered these things and might believe that they did not exist.  Of course, one day, Prince S decided to see what the world was like beyond the palace walls, and he of course, immediately found sickness, aging, and death.  It was a surprise to him, maybe.   Though I think he probably suspected it.

    Can you imagine what it was like when he told his father, his wife, and his infant child that he was going off to find an end to suffering?

    • Xanthe on January 26, 2011 at 2:47 am

    All intelligent children who are sensitive think about death – You have a child who talks to you about it. Quite something.

    My own son had a sort of ephiphany when he came home from college for Christmas in his freshman year and found out I’d put to sleep Dandy, our black and white cat.  “But I don’t want him to die,” he said at the kitchen table where I found him about 3 in the morning crying.  I don’t remember what I said really – I hope it comforted him.  He took a shower and we talked about this and that – Odd, how children first question death.  And take it into themselves to examine it.

  2. lovely, albeit, with sadness as well!  You are truly blessed to have such a sensitive and feeling son!  Sadly, such a person usually gets kicked about in life pretty good!  You cannot always be there to protect him from life’s cruelty, but you can and, I believe you do, teach him to be strong!

    What a wonderful young man you have!

    In reflection, it’s somewhat strange!  I raised my daughter to care about animals (and, we had all kinds), to be caring about the suffering of others.  She has a very good heart, which has been hurt over and over and over again!  I, of course, questioned myself about my wisdom of “inducing” her to be kind.  Yet, I think, despite her disappointments (and, mine, too), she is happy that she has remained true to her beliefs!

    So, in summation, I guess we “transfer” the best we can to our children and hope they turn out to be decent human beings!

    • mplo on January 27, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Your son is an idealistic, sensitive person, especially for one at such a tender age.  

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