Thursday, March 02, 2006

Out of the mouths of babes

Scene 1: A garden in Claremont, Cape Town, overlooking Villagers Rugby ground about 15 years ago.

Son (annoyed, upset shouting): Dad! Dad, it’s not working anymore!
Father (walking out back door): Let me have a look.
Son: It won’t work, Dad, fix it.
Father: That’s a beetle, it looks dead to me.
Son: It was working, it won’t work anymore. What’s dead, Dad?
Father: If you push a beetle too hard, you can hurt it enough until you kill it.
Son: What’s dead?
Father: All living creatures die eventually. Creatures are born, then they grow up until they get old then they die. Sometimes they die if they get sick or hurt. Like that beetle.
Son (puzzled, thoughtful expression): Oh.

Scene 2: Son’s bedroom 2 days later.

Father (walking into son’s bedroom): J, what’s the matter, why are you crying?
Son (sobbing quietly): I don’t want to die.
Father (kneeling and putting arm around son): You aren’t going to die, what makes you say that?
Son: You said that all creatures die.
Father (sensing a tricky situation): Yes, I did. But you aren’t old or very sick. People live a long time before they die.
Son (less sobbing but not convinced): Are you going to die?
Father: Yes, we all have to die one day but not for a long time yet.
Son: You are old, I don’t want you to die.
Father: Not that old, I’m still not going to die for a very long time.
Son (holding father tightly): I don’t want any of us to die. Not you or Mommy or me.
Father: Don’t worry, J, none of us is going to die for a very, very long time.

Scene 3: Six months later. Father (A), mother (E) and son (J) are sitting a bedroom at an old age home in Vredehoek visiting an old family friend (S).

S: It’s teatime, let’s go to the sitting room. A, will you help me get up please?

S is helped out of bed and puts out her arm.

S: Thanks, A. E, let me hold on to your arm.

All leave the room and walk very slowly down the corridor. S and E, S holding on to E’s arm, are ahead. They are chatting to each other. A and son, hand in hand, are walking a few paces behind.

Son: Dad, when can we go home?
Father: Shhh, J, we’ll go home after tea.
Son (raising his voice): S, when are you going to die?
Father (crushing son’s hand and frowning angrily): Shhhhhhhhhh!
Son (pained look, eyes filling with tears): Ow, that hurts, Dad!

How it all ended:
S was a bit hard of hearing and was engaged in conversation with E at the time so it was very unlikely that she'd heard the question. A felt a bit of a bastard having crushed his son's hand like that but it seemed to be the only way of stopping a barrage of death-related questions. Later, going out to the car, he tried to explain that other people, especially old, sick people, are also very sensitive about death, just as J was, and that it wasn't good manners to ask them questions like that.

S died about a year later.

14 Comments:

Blogger kyknoord said...

Tough one to answer. How does the story end?

11:44 am  
Blogger whatalotoffun said...

yes, we all have to go that path.
yes like kyknoord said. I would also like to know how it ended. Also got a good joke by email today I will publish it for you.

11:50 am  
Anonymous Alan said...

I'm sure this happens to every family. I remember saying it out loud in front of elderly relatives when I was young and getting a similar response from my father. It is natural for kids to be inquisitive about death - I went through very morbid phase at aout 10. My parents thought I should see a shrink !

12:25 pm  
Anonymous Alan said...

Whilst many people are scared and sensitive about the subject of death, with good cause, I my line of work I have come across a very special (and somewhat odd) group of old people who relish the challenge of death ! They see it as the last great adventure in their life and attack it with all the remaining gusto they have. In fact far from being off putting it is very refreshing for me (with the spectre of death loomong large most days) to work with these people who activley challenge the taboo of death.

12:58 pm  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

kyknoord: I've put in an ending now.

whatalottafun: I'll go check out the joke.

alan: your parents may have been right about the shrink! :-)

1:36 pm  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

It being election time in S Africa at the moment, I have a 'political' post coming up that is directly related to S, the old friend who was subject to this post.

Maybe tomorrow..

1:38 pm  
Anonymous Alan said...

That was not the first time they considered a shrink ! They wanted to send me to a child psychologist when I was about 4 due to my highly antisocial tendencies towards other children whilst at nursery. I was kicked out of three of them and my parents thought I was a child sosciopath !

1:53 pm  
Blogger whatalotoffun said...

Yes the election was yesterday. I did not get to vote. Because you have to register and nobody told me untill it was to late.

1:56 pm  
Blogger CTG said...

Hi there. This was a touching post. We've all been on that path. I remember asking my parents about death and that. Never nice to talk about and I can imagine having to explain to children. I had to explain last year to my 7 year old cousin when our grandfather passed away - it was so difficult, but I managed. As for the elections here, I didn't vote either - I missed the registration dates. Have a great eve, CTG

2:46 pm  
Blogger whatalotoffun said...

did you like my joke??? Thanks for reading it. Anybody else wanna laugh go to my blog

2:53 pm  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

ctg: It was also meant to be funny, not just touching! :-)

whatalotoffun: I read it and tried to translate it into one letter in English, so to speak. :-)

3:28 pm  
Blogger CTG said...

Hehe, it was funny ;-) I had a good chuckle. CTG

5:42 am  
Anonymous wendy said...

My 8 year old is very keen on dying - he thinks he should die soon so that he can to to heaven and party while he's still a kid. He's a bit weird that way. I hate it when he talks like that - it freaks me out.

10:44 am  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

That is very freaky. Are you sure he doesn't do it just to freak you out?

1:12 pm  

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