Friday, November 07, 2008

Mom's home

Welcome home, mom

Once she purchased her ticket, I told Q and The Boy that mom was coming home, and they immediately set about making a sign. I helped The Boy work out the spelling of 'welcome', and he wrote the rest on his own. He added hearts and flowers, and Q added some flair of her own, including (inexplicably) carrots. She also asked me to draw some flowers and hearts for her to color in, and, though it's a little hard to see above, she added a 'Q' for good measure.

We taped the sign to the front door of our apartment, which triggered the less rosy part of The Boy's imagination: What if it falls down? What if someone takes it away? We had to check before bed that it was in fact still there, and I had to promise that I would check again before I closed my own eyes for the night. My lovely wife was taking the red eye back from San Diego so that she could maximize her time with Q and The Boy before returning for Ba Ngoai's services, so we all had to have faith in the strength of the tape.

She came into the bed just before the sunrise; I would take her over it every time. I hadn't been able to sleep myself, and moved to her to be something quiet and warm. She was tired from the five-hour flight and two weeks of tragedy, and, saying nothing and not needing to, we slept.

They both got up early. I was already in the shower so that I could start on breakfasts and lunch and get the kids off to school on time. The Boy whooshed into the bathroom and swept aside the shower curtain, letting out an inarticulate noise of disappointment when he saw who it merely was. I told him to look in our bed, and he whooshed back out and onto his mother. Q came in not long after with both her blankets and piled on, too. Mom's being home unclenched the fist of things.

We both took the day off. We both dropped off and picked up both kids from school, in part so that I could draw the children away while my wife told each of the kids' teachers about Ba Ngoai's passing in case they needed context for unusual behavior. And though I had told Q and The Boy that Ba Ngoai was very sick — and that not everyone who gets sick gets better — we had yet to talk about her being gone.

That conversation came later that night, and it was a difficult one. At first we couldn't get The Boy to pay attention, so we focused first on Q. We explained that Ba Ngoai didn't get better, that she died, and that we can't see or talk to her any more. Q perhaps gave Ba Ngoai the most joy of anyone — the two of them were very much alike in many ways, and every time they were together, they would play private games and laugh and just generally give off sparks. But Q is just three, and she deeply furrowed her brow at the news in an effort to understand and didn't say much of anything. Telling them brought up gushes of sadness in us that weren't very far down to begin with, and Q hugged mom's arm hard with her whole body and didn't let go, as my wife sobbed. The Boy began to catch on and himself exploded into sobs. It's okay to be sad, we said, but he was all questions: How was she sick? What stopped working? Where did she go?

Q looked pretty puzzled and anxious, so I took her for a bath while my wife tried to answer The Boy's questions as directly as she thought she could (which was pretty directly). In the end, she quieted him by reading a book with him and by laying down beside him in his bed, by caring for him.

They were back to their regular selves the next morning, though I can't quite say the same for us. The kids have definitely been a tonic while my wife was away, and even now — it's hard to remain sad when tickled by tiny fingers or when Q keeps trying to jump on your shadow or when softly kissed on the cheek. The Boy has not forgotten; he declared to his teacher that his grandmother was very sick and died and that now he has only one left. He says he's sad (and I believe him), but what happened has become a fact for him, a step that still eludes me.

My wife left again today for California to help with the preparations for Ba Ngoai's funeral. I follow her out tomorrow to help and to pay my respects to someone I have known so closely for 17 years. Q and The Boy will remain here with friends and then with family. I will be the first one they will find in the bed on Monday morning when they wake. After the difficult weekend to come, we could use some welcome signs on the door and the touch from the small hands that made them.

1 comment:

teahouse said...

What a lovely and beautiful post. Have a safe trip to California, and get home safe to your kids. You guys are in my prayers.