Like many youngest children, my son Joey works a little harder
to carve out a space for himself in our family - both figuratively
and literally. After noticing that there were only two children's
desks (which he assumed had already been laid claim to by his older
brothers), Joey cleared out a bookshelf in the den. He then hauled
a toy bench downstairs and promptly began equipping "his office"
with all the necessary details, including his toy computer:
My son loves to sit in his favorite spot whenever I am on the
computer paying bills, reading the news, or feeding my online shoe
addiction. For years, Joey also enjoyed knocking on the window to
wave to our next-door neighbor, Sue, (whose driveway is right
outside Joey's office).
With 35 years as a special education teacher, Sue showed amazing
patience and affection for the little boy she dubbed "her
boyfriend." If Joey spotted Sue outside weeding or gardening, the
poor woman was instantly face-to-face with a 6-year-old and his
thousand questions about what exactly she was doing. Sue quickly
learned to harness his boundless energy and often handed him tools
and encouraged him to get busy. Despite having the attentiveness
of, well, a 6-year-old, Joey's efforts were rewarded with great
praise and occasional cookies.
When Sue's beloved husband passed away 18 months ago, Joey was
very concerned about his friend. He wondered who would take care of
Sue and keep her company. He worried about her being lonely and
sad. He suggested she marry his grandpa. I told him Sue had
wonderful children, grandchildren, and friends who visited often.
That news seemed to ease his mind.
We were all devastated when Sue herself became seriously ill
last November and struggled to come to grips with the limited time
she had left. From a selfish standpoint, I was going to miss the
warm and easy neighbor who showered so much attention on my sons. I
was also in severe denial about the whole thing. When Sue lost her
battle last month, I was a weepy mess for days. And in my own
grief, I fear I may have overlooked how Joey was handling
As I went to rid my little hoarder's designated area of cookie
crumbs, scraps of paper, and crayon bits this week, I came across
an indication of how exactly Joey was dealing with Sue's loss. On
the window where he would knock to greet Sue as she came and went,
he posted a simple reminder:
And underneath that was a hidden note to his gardening buddy and
partner in cookies:
He had written, "Sue we miss you. Will you come back. Joey luv
you." He had also posted her funeral card (which had a picture of
smiling beautiful Sue) on the cabinet next to him.
I realized I hadn't been the most attentive parent in helping
Joey work through his grief. Since my discovery, I've found that
with very little prompting, Joey is eager to discuss his thoughts
on death and his many questions about Sue, not the least of which
include, "Who is gonna take care of her flowers and plants
He suggested he handle the job, because he was the only one who
"knew how Sue liked things."
Even though I have been a mother for a decade, I am still amazed
at the depth of feelings children possess. The ability to fiercely
love another human being does not have an age requirement. I will
miss Sue in a thousand different ways, but somehow, I know in my
heart that Joey will miss her even more.
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.
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