The girl and I have some of our best conversations just before she goes to sleep, when we’re snuggled in her bed. She’s dozy and cozy and opens up about how her day went, the friends she played with at recess, the things she’s worried about, the nightmare she had the night before or the awesome dream she plans on finishing tonight.
We also have some very deep, philosophical talks when she’s on the toilet.
They usually start with, “Mommy, come with me. It’s gonna be a poo and it’s gonna be awhile.”
Yesterday, after Luc’s grandmother’s funeral, while family and friends lingered in the church hall, dabbing their eyes, eating white bread sandwich triangles, sipping coffee from styrofoam cups and reminiscing about Mémé’s long and fulfilling life, she took my hand and led me to the women’s washroom off the vestibule.
“I’m half your side and half Papa’s,” she started, once she’d settled in, and I could tell we’d be together in the handicapped stall for awhile.
“But I think I’m more Papa’s side'” she continued.
“Why’s that?” I asked, shifting from one foot to the other, trying not to lean against the wall. I try to patient, I really do, but I’ve spent way too much time in washrooms (public or otherwise) in the past decade waiting for my kids to do their business.
“Well–and I’m not making fun of your family…” she looked up at me, making sure she should continue, that I was really listening and not just thinking about the dessert table, and that I wouldn’t take offence to what was coming next, “…but most of your side is dead.”
She’s not far off in her calculations. Granted, with my Dad being an only child, my side of the family wasn’t that big to start with. I only have aunts, uncles and cousins on my mom’s side. But even with our reduced starting numbers we have had what I consider to be an unfair number of deaths in the family. Both of my grandpas when I was a kid. One aunt. Two uncles. My cousin’s 11-year-old daughter. My mom, four years before the boy was born. Both of my grandmas in the past year. And, as the girl always takes pains to remind me, “the baby that died in your belly” who would have been her big-big brother or sister.
And although she might not have met them all or experienced their deaths first-hand, she knows them as family. And that’s a lot for a seven-year-old to take in, compared to one great-grandma and a vaguely remembered uncle on Luc’s side.
I could see where her logic was taking her even before she got there herself.
“So I think I’m more Papa’s side,” she went on. “Because there’s more of us on that side. And we don’t die as much.”
She’s right to choose that side. It’s safer over there.
I hope she’s more Luc’s side too. So that she doesn’t die from leukemia at 11. Or a brain aneurysm at 49. Or metastasized breast cancer at 57. Or a heart attack at 69.
So that at 90-odd years old, her friends and family can gather to celebrate her long and fulfilling life. And her great-granddaughter can start figuring out for herself what one generation passes along to the next and what it means to live and die.