My son’s personality is an intriguing dichotomy. He is frequently a total, off-the-wall goofball who loves to make jokes and crack others (and himself) up with his silly antics and humor. His laugh is infectious and when something really tickles him he wants to share it (again and again) with everyone around him. He is constantly coming up with ways to make me laugh.
But he can also be a serious scholar, who grasps intangible concepts far beyond his age level. He can spend lengthy periods of time pouring over a puzzle or a book, and sometimes retreats from the social atmosphere because he just needs some “alone time.”
He misses Xander. He has been remarkably resilient in the wake of losing his best friend in a drowning accident last summer, but Xander is frequently on his mind and he occasionally has days when he seems to struggle with the weight of permanent (at least, for the length of this lifetime) loss. I think true grief is like that, coming in waves where sometimes the seas are calm and you can manage through life as usual, and other times it comes out of nowhere and knocks your boat over.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in my craft room when I started to hear a small, whimpering voice. At first I thought maybe the kids were playing (they frequently role-play, where one is the parent and the other is the kid… and the kid role involves a LOT of whining). But I soon realized that Kaelin was downstairs, so I followed the sound and found Koren sitting by himself in the media room. The Apple TV’s slideshow was running and he was watching our family pictures scroll up the screen.
“You ok, bud?”
“Mama… I miss Xander. I want things to be like they were in that picture. With me and Xander at Chuck E Cheese.”
“Were you talking to Xander just now?”
I want so badly to make this better for him. That’s my right after all, isn’t it? The Sacred Superpower granted to all parents: kisses and words to offer that make all the boo-boos feel better and all the monsters disappear.
But – surprise – there are some wounds that can’t be healed with hugs and kisses. These wounds continue to hurt the ones you try so hard to shield.
He had another wave yesterday. We were at a restaurant with my family and Koren suddenly retreated. I noticed him sitting in a corner instead of in his chair and asked him to come sit with me. He climbed up in my lap and we chatted for a bit, and then I took him to the bathroom. Once we were in there, between his goofy attempts to make himself invisible so he could jump out and surprise me, we had the following conversation:
“Mama, can I tell you something?”
“Do you know why I was sitting in the corner?”
“Because I was thinking of Xander. And I wish we were playing together.”
His mood picked up after lunch and he seemed to really enjoy the rest of the day (especially T-Ball practice), but his friend remained on his mind. He brought it up again at bedtime and told me that every time he sees a helicopter it makes him think of Xander (who was flown to the hospital in one). He wanted to know if, whenever they are reunited in Heaven some day, Xander would still be four, or if they will be the same age. He still prays for Xander’s family nearly every night.
Today, he’s in good spirits. He bounded down the stairs this morning full of life and hoping for a boiled egg with breakfast. While eating, he ruminated on whether he wants to be a teacher or a doctor when he grows up. It appears yesterday’s funk has passed.
Even though his instinct is to retreat when he’s feeling down or needing to process, talking about it does seem to help him. Despite my wishes (and futile attempts), I can’t calm the ocean for him. I can only ride the waves with him, and hold him tight when swells get high.
Perhaps that’s all he needs from me.