My 3-year-old son is interested in the difference between being alive and dead, and what it means to be dead. It started with a visit to Morrill Hall – a museum with plenty of bones – where his curiosity was piqued by the Plesiosaur in the floor. It’s a great exhibit of the long neck of that marine reptile under protective glass running the length of the exhibit room so that kids like Rowan can run atop the entire length of the neck.
My wife and I have a science background, so explaining how the dinosaurs lived and died and leading into how all living things eventually die was a natural progression for us; we’re not ones to sugar coat or out right fib, but we try to be careful to present death in a way that is natural and not scary.
On the drive to pre-school today, Rowan was talking about what would happen if his eyes fell out. I think he is tangentially thinking about how skeletons do not have eyes, because he has talked about that before. I had some fun with it and told him it would be rather painful, but I put my hands up to my face and pretended to move my dangling eyes to different places – crossed, or on the side of my head – and we laughed about how funny it would be to see things with eyes that we could reposition.
Although sometimes a little comedy helps, we usually talk about death in a practical way; it happens, but not often and usually not until someone is very old. I like to remind him that his grandmas are around to take care of him, so when he is a “Daddio” we should still be around to take care of his kids.
Rowan does know that my father passed away shortly after Rowan was born. We don’t talk about it much, but we have told him that he died in my mom’s house, which is where Rowan spends a lot of time after she picks him up from pre-school each day and before my wife picks him up after work.
So, I got a voice mail from my mom tonight that something a little strange went on today and she wanted me to give her a call. It was 10pm before I got back to her, but she wanted to know how much we had told Rowan about my father’s death. I told her that we have told him he died in the house, but that was about it; and I think I told him that just once.
Evidently, today Rowan crawled under the kitchen table. He then told my mom that someone had died under there and then some men took him to the cemetery to bury him. He said that he saw some writing under the table, so that’s how he knew someone had been under there.
My mom was spooked out for good reason since that is the room my father died in. So, she crawled under the table to see if there was some paranormal message, but there wasn’t – only a few letters. Rowan wasn’t bothered at all, he just went into another room to play.
After getting some chills down my spine from this story, I put Rowan on speaker phone to hear it from his point of view again. I asked him what he saw under the table and he said he saw the number D and so he thought it was my Daddio who was under the table writing a message when he died. I asked if he saw any one or heard anyone and he said he didn’t, that the man must have already been taken to the cemetery.
My mom then crawled under the table again and saw the letters E and B, or maybe the number 3. They were marks from the construction of the table, nothing more. Still, having Rowan pin-point the location of my father’s death was spooky. The added details about the men who took him to the cemetery only made it weirder, since he doesn’t usually have stories that are that intricate.
I told my mom that I would start paying attention to spooky things he said around here or at his other grandmother’s house to see if he just talks like that – maybe he is just starting to make up elaborate stories. I said that if he keeps bringing up more details or dwelling on the dining room table, then I’d start to get concerned – for now, I choose to believe it was just a spooky coincidence.
I wished her good luck sleeping tonight, though; she’ll need it.