Monday, 16 April 2012

That's final

I finally plucked up courage. I told the children about the death in the family.

Death in the family? Close enough for me to stare open-mouthed at Dig on the computer screen and utter What? But far enough away for me not to howl in rage and beat at the walls. So I'm left in the middle. Death before time; incomprehension with certainty.

Then I left it some days before I told the children. But there's no getting round this, is there? It's a line, right there. I can't weasel my way round it; I can't put a bright side to it; I can't say nevermindputthekettleon.

First, I thought I would choose the best time, like there is a best time. Then I thought I would tell the children all together, like gathered in assembly. (Contemplation, no prayers.) But then I thought, I'll tell one - the other - the next, by which time I'll fear that my mouth will be accustomed to the sounds of the words; my repetition will lack the due weight. I'll forgo proper attention, and anyway, by number three I'll be doing the dishes. All wrong.

In the end, I seized the moment and told them. Tiger, sensitive and in tune with your feelings before you can know what they are, recoiled in shock, said Oh no, and clasped her fingers to her cheek. Shark, father's daughter, stared ponderously for a moment before suggesting with weighty authority that the planning of the family holiday would have to accommodate this new circumstance. Squirrel said nothing. Later she asked if I was going to make her wear the pink and white dress again, the one that I made her wear for the last family funeral.

Glad of that, glad of the protection she gave me, I took my way out and wittered on about white froth net under summer cotton; off the hook from further explanations: who was where, what he was about, the late night car park; the dissecting talk of post-mortems.

So, yes, it's me and Dig now staring glumly together over a computer screen, with talk about intention and prediction and expectation. Inside, we're both looking to our own mortalities.

I will tell Squirrel, Shark, and Tiger, dress to celebrate. You shall not send me off in miserable black. I want to know you'll be in party froth, sparkle, and pointy shoes.

And make sure, when I go, that I am, too.