Ma died two years ago, S was two years old. To him, a child with a fixation with numbers, she was Nana number nine… because she lived at number nine!
And he still says it…
I had to forewarn him that tomorrow, we will be going to see his Uncle M and Aunty J.
“Ohhhh, Uncle M lives at number one, Mummy!”
I also told him that we’d be going to the “big garden” (the crematorium) to put some flowers down for Nana and Granddad.
“Nana lives at number nine, Mummy!”
He hasn’t seen his Grandmother since August 2011 but in his mind, she’s still there. Nana lives at number nine. End of.
He’s never asks when he’s going to see her again.
He never asks why he hasn’t seen her for so long.
He never talks about her except to look at her picture and say, “Nana lives at number nine doesn’t she, Mama?”
I just ruffle his hair and say nothing.
How can I tell him that she’s no longer there?
How do I explain that she died, that he’ll never see her again?
How do I talk about loss and death to a child who sees the world in a literal sense and who is still only four and a half years old?
Tomorrow we will take him to the crematorium. I’ll go through the motions of cleaning the stone and arranging the flowers. I’ll read the words engraved on the plinth, “The song has ended but the melody lingers on”.
S will have no concept that what remains of his Nana (in body) is there.
My son may be autistic but even if that’s the case, it’s wrong of me to allow him to keep connecting the word Nana with the number nine- the address of a house that belongs to someone else.
So this time, when he said, “Nana lives at number nine” with a heavy heart I said, “No, Nana doesn’t live at number nine”.
Words escaped me and I reverted to the only phrase that I know, “Nana lives in Heaven with Granddad”.
S didn’t question me, he simply carried on watching Numberjacks.
I didn’t push it either, I left it at that.
I know I probably shouldn’t have used the words “big garden”. I should use the word crematorium but the truth is that I hate the word.
Crem-a-tor-ium is such a glum sounding word. Urgh!
I know I have to talk to my child in the literal terms that he understands. I mustn’t use the word “sleep” or “rest”, it must be “died” or “dead”. “Nana was very poorly and she died”…
Heaven is a concept that he will learn because he attends a faith school. While I don’t necessarily agree with some people’s concept of God and Heaven, I do believe that we go somewhere but for now he will know of Heaven- so Heaven it is.
Ma believed in Heaven so I guess she’d approve. That’s presuming she made it through the gates. Well she did swear occasionally, mainly after a couple of gins.
Of course she made it to Heaven. God himself would have had to roll the red carpet out ready for Ma’s big entrance, and it had better have been Axminster or woe betide him!
S will never remember this wonderful lady or indeed his other Grandmother. He will never really know a Grandmothers love. I feel sad for him.
Ma loved all her Grandchildren. She loved their unique personalities. She was immensely proud of each and every one…all eight of them don’t you know! We were reminded often enough, especially at Christmas when it cost her “a bloody fortune”. She threatened it often enough but we never did have to visit her in the workhouse…
S was her “sweetpea” from the day he was born.
“How’s my sweetpea today?”, she’d shrill down the phone.
“I’ll give you sweetpea, Mother…the little bugga has done my head in today!!!” I’d sob back.
She loved him because he’s different.
He will never know her but I will make sure that he knows of her along with his other deceased Grandparents who died before he was born- his paternal Grandmother and my Dad. I intend to make up a little photo album, just for him.
But for now I need to work out how to tell him, in a way that he will understand, that Nana doesn’t live at number nine anymore.
You’re alone when you come in this world
You’re alone when you go
And it doesn’t matter who you are
It doesn’t matter who you know
Randy Newman ~ Heaven is my Home