Kid Tales May 09

I’ll put up some funny stories soon, after I’m done with this next part.

Hope Deals With Death

When I was writing the last Kid Tales in March, I got a call from my mother. She told me my father (Akong to the kids) had just died. I’ve been worried about how Hope would deal with death since she lost her Grandpa Leo just in February.


She seems to be dealing with it well. She will think about it in bursts and so it will come up out of nowhere. Sometimes I find what she says so moving and sometimes I’m not sure adults are any better prepared to mourn than kids. I don’t know what the right way to handle it is, but we’ve been trying to just be true and open towards her.

Puerto Rico

In January, Grandpa Leo was getting treatment in Puerto Rico, so we brought the kids out there. It was Bayamon, which is not the fun part of PR, and we had very little to entertain the kids. One night in the hotel. Hope woke up from a bad dream. She had never told me about one of her bad dreams before and she usually says her good dreams are about Ariel the Mermaid. This time she said, “Baba, I had a bad dream. I dreamed there was water all around and it was dark and I was drowning and no one was there.” So we held each other a while and I told her she was safe with us. When she got back to school after the trip, everyone had to describe their winter break.


Hope: We went to Puerto Rico. There aren’t any good toys there.

After Leo's Death

We’re walking to the BART and out of the blue...


Hope: Baba, plants die, right?

Baba: Yes they do.

Hope: People die too, right?

Baba: Yes they do.

Hope: But they come back.

Baba: What?

Hope: They come back! Just like my penguin.


Hope has a strange penguin toy whose batteries are, well, dead. Except every now and then she tries it and the batteries work for a little bit.


Another day, in the car...


Hope: Baba, can Grandpa Leo hear us?

Baba: I’m not sure.

Hope: Mama says we can talk to him.

Baba: Yes we can talk to him and we can remember him and feel like he’s here.

Hope: So can he hear us? And see us?

Baba: I don’t know. Nobody really knows what happens after you die. All I know is that you don’t need your body anymore, and when we remember them, we can feel like their spirit is here.

Hope: When we go home, let’s look at the picture book of grandpa Leo.

After Akong's Death

Hope became really obsessed for a few days about the story of when I got my father to quit smoking. She would retell it to me, I think in some effort to feel like kids could do things to prevent bad things from happening to their parents.


Hope: Baba, smoking is bad.

Baba: That’s true.

Hope: Why?

Baba: Well, it hurts your lungs so it’s hard to breathe.

Hope: When Akong was smoking, he said he’d stop. And he did!

Baba: Yes. 


Hope: Why? 

Baba: Because smoking is bad for you. 

Hope: Why do people smoke? 

Baba: Because it feels really good to some people when they smoke. But then they feel bad after. It’s hard to quit. 

Hope: Why? 

Baba: Because you feel so bad the first week, you forget you’ll feel really good later. 

Hope: But Akong said, no more and he threw the packs away! 

Baba: Yes. That’s not easy. 

Hope: Baba, when I’m in college, I’m never going to smoke! 

Baba: Good. 

Hope: But I don’t want to go to college! 

Baba: Fine.


After Akong's Funeral

When we returned from our eighth(!) transcontinental flight in less than four months, Hope had some very mild regressions, but overall was a real trooper. We still talk about the deaths, but she’s been very healthy about it. One recent morning, Hope had me read a Little Bear book I’d never read before (the one with his friend by the river). I’d had a hard morning thinking about my father, and some of those stories really get to me anyway (the one about Mama Bear letting her pet bird fly away gets me every time). This one ended with a story about Little Bear dealing with his sadness that his friend left him and it ends with his parents helping him write a letter. I got so sad I actually started crying by the end of the book. I managed to finish the story. 


Baba: Isn’t that silly, I’m crying two big tears just like Little Bear.


Hopey gives me a big hug. 


Hope: Why are you sad? 

Baba: I’m sad about Akong and grandpa dying. 

Hope: I’m sad too.


She gave me a very big hug and a kiss on the head. Then we went to ballet class and went on with the day. In the evening many hours later, it was time for her bedtime book. Very unusually, she picked a photo book that her Grandpa Leo and Grandma Mary made for her. 


Baba: This is different. Are you sure you want this book? 

Hope: It’s kind of long. 

Baba: Yes. I’ll read it if you want, but why did you pick this book? 

Hope: So we could remember Grandpa Leo because you were sad and so you could feel better. 

Baba: You are so sweet to me. But this is your story time, so you should pick a book that you really want for yourself, and I’ll look at that book later. 

Hope: Okay, I want Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late.


She’s a good kid.


Final Thoughts

Hope (singing a made up song): My two grandpas died / my grandpa Leo and my Akong / so I’m sad / but I sing and it makes me feel better.


Hope: I love hugging, baba. We just hug and hug and hug until we die.

Eric: That’s true. That’s a pretty good life.