Yesterday as we were enjoying some time inside the farm house between cold walks, Baby Girl and I were hanging out on my bed. At the farm she has always shared a room with me, and it’s become a special thing. I’ve noticed that sometimes those down times are ripe for conversations — the ones that help me see her heart.
Baby Girl turned five in August. She was barely four when her father died, and of course sometimes our conversations about that situation are heart-breaking. She has always been the most expressive about Mike’s death which means that I am more likely to field those difficult questions and comments with her. Little girls have special relationships with their fathers. I do. And, so often I find myself looking for ways to help her deal with that loss while trying to shore up her memories.
I wrote last week about how much of a blessing time has been for me in giving me enough distance and processing of the situation with Mike to now begin to talk about him more freely and with more joy. I’ve seen how much that has helped Baby Girl in particular.
Because she is so young, sometimes I see her searching. Like she is trying to make her memories of her father more solid and real. That’s a process we are all going through. Everyone else just has more time — more memories — to pull from. So, she asks me questions. In surprising moments of contentment and safety, she asks. Times like yesterday afternoon.
We were hanging out on my bed in the farm house. She laid down on the side of the bed beside the wall next to where I sleep and asked of that was where Daddy slept. She began to explain to me how Daddy had used this bed to change her diapers and how he had picked her up from her bed when she woke up during the early morning hours and taken her to the farm house living room.
She’s told me this before. She repeats it for me occasionally. And asks, “is that right?” And I tell her “yes.” Every time she smiles to know that Daddy took care of her and changed her diaper and helped her when she needed to go back to sleep. Yesterday I told her that this was one of Daddy’s favorite things to do. I explained what I had all but forgotten myself. That Mike had often gotten up at the farm to play with her in the mornings — when toddlers always seem to wake. He did it to let me sleep. And to be with Baby Girl.
To write about it is still painful. I’m not quite at the stage where it is pure joy to remember the kindnesses Mike showed me, the kindness of his character, and the love he had for his children. I’m not sure I’ll ever count those memories as pure joy. They may always be twinged with the reality of his death and his choice to die. But, it is important for me to remember them again. And it’s important for Baby Girl to remember them. For me to be able to tell her “yes, that’s right.” To freely elaborate and give her more of the account of her father. To nurture those memories she treasures. What we all treasure. I’ve realized how important it is for me to help her hold them dear.
I’m learning how precious those moments of sharing are for our family. And for my own process of moving forward. I’m learning that it’s ok to show my children my tears and to give them permission to show their own. I’m learning that it is healthy and good for us to ask questions together and answer them together. I’m learning that joy does indeed come in the morning of our grief as we are slowly waking to those moments of truth and remembrance.