Monday, June 20, 2016

Firstborn Grieves

"Firstborn hit me," reported Secondborn. He didn't look especially injured, but he doesn't make this sort of thing up. On the other hand, he isn't always as precise as he could be...

So, "How did he hit you?" I asked.

"Like this." He pantomimed hitting his hand with the base of his other hand.

"Where did he hit you?"

"On the hand."

Figuring that that was all the detail I was likely to get, I went to seek out Firstborn. This was on Sunday, and we were at my father's house. (It was Father's Day, but we probably would have been there anyway.) We'd just gotten everyone out of the pool and back into their clothes, but we hadn't quite gotten dinner ready. Apparently something had gone wrong in the interim.

I found firstborn in the workshop, sitting in his grandmother's electric wheelchair and sobbing uncontrollably. I really should have put it together then, but I didn't. I was just annoyed that the child was obviously too upset by whatever had happened with his brother to explain, well, anything. "Firstborn, why did you hit your brother?" I asked.

He just kept sobbing.

"All right," I said, feeling resigned. "When you're done with this, come and explain why you hit your brother."

Fortunately, my father came in just behind me, and settled down beside him, and got him calmed down enough to admit that he was -- more or less out of nowhere -- mourning the fact that his grandmother was dead.

At that point, I had a pretty good idea what had happened, but I wanted to be sure. "So why did you hit your brother?" I asked again.

"I saw the wheelchair, and I was sad, and he just wouldn't stop talking," said Firstborn.

"...And you were too sad to make the words, so you hit his hand to make him go away?" I asked, unwillingly sympathetic.

Firstborn nodded.

"...I can see that," I told him. "But you still owe your brother an apology later."

And Firstborn nodded again, and his grandfather wound up sitting with him for the next half an hour or so -- somewhere in there they moved to the couch, though -- and I don't know what all they said, but I think it was good for both of them.


  1. The sadness does seem to come from nowhere. Firstborn may not be able to quite articulate where it came from, but there was likely something that spawned it. A smell, a laugh, a phrase, something missing from dinner, something she would have especially liked at could be anything, really. Sounds like he and your dad had some really quality bonding time.

    1. In this case, I'm pretty sure it was seeing the wheelchair without Grandmommy in it. I've actually been kind of expecting this -- where Secondborn tends to react to thing immediately and directly, Firstborn tends to hold them inside, and then have them burst out at odd moments. Something like this was going to happen; it was only ever a question of when.

  2. A very common human experience that often arises when we see, touch, remember things about our dead loved ones. My Dad has been dead for 29 years (age 46) and my Mom has been dead 26 years (age 54) Despite their deaths being ancient history, I can, at odd moments, become quite emotional when I think about my parents. Just the other day I picked up a pocket knife my Dad gave me 50 years ago. My mind, in that moment, was flooded with memories--good memories.

    These experiences are how we hang on to those we shall never see again.

    1. Yeah. And I'm not sure they're ever really ancient history when we're talking about people who were close to us.


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