Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pick and Choose

I got some news yesterday. Now I know that I will not be spending my Saturday morning lounging around in my PJs (as previously planned), but will instead be attending the funeral of a family friend, who passed away in his late nineties after a long and fulfilling life. Nothing changes plans as unexpectedly as a death. While this man and I were not particularly close, this was someone I had a huge amount of respect for, and since my parents do not live close enough to pay their respects in person, I will be there to represent my family. Ironically, after the funeral, I am going to a 4-year-old's birthday party, but I guess that is what the Circle of Life song was all about.
Strangely enough, this news came on the heels of a lot of thinking I'd already been doing on this topic.
Last week, I watched The Queen, which I'd already seen, but it was free Starz weekend, and as long as a movie isn't R, I'll sit through just about anything. The movie is about the royal reaction to the death of Princess Diana--a major worldwide event I actually remember. I was thinking about how strange it was that anniversaries were going by of things I could remember. As a kid and teenager, everything always seems to have happened before you were born, but here I was, remembering where I was when such and such happened, just like an old person. 11 years since Princess Diana died, 7 years since September 11, 2001. I remember Princess Diana dying because my mom was the one who told me. The reason it is so vivid in my mind is because I could have sworn she said "Princess Leia died today," and I couldn't figure out if she meant the character, or the actress who played her, but it seemed rude to ask when she was obviously sad. I also had no idea she liked Star Wars so much. Turns out, she didn't, and Carrie Fisher is very much alive, but I will never forget the conversation. I didn't piece it all together until I got home and saw the TV coverage.
Remembering my awkward reception of this news reminded me of all the other deaths that have fallen on my parents' unfortunate shoulders to report to me over the years--Phil Hartman (one of my favorite comedians), Memphis (our beloved dog), numerous other pets (Chips Of Hoy, our rabbit springs to mind), practically countless fish, including Fluffy, PeePee, and Forgetful Jones (hey, no one can name a pet like 3-year-old me). Once I hit adulthood, it got even worse when Mom was the one to call me about Daniel's father. Again, I thought she said someone else because the thought of Daniel's young and healthy father dying was so far away from my realm of possible, and again, I was wrong. Only a few months later, we had just left the Hospice house when my father called me to come back because my Grandfather had passed away while Grandma and I went home to sleep. Far too shortly thereafter, it was one of our best friends, Jeff. By this time, I had learned how to recognize the "death tone" in my mother's voice and listen carefully, never assuming anyone to be immune. As an adult looking back, the deaths of Fluffy and PeePee aren't all that big of a deal--they were 9 cent feeder fish--but at the time, it was all a preschooler could handle, I'd had them as long as I could remember. For feeder fish, they did last a long time. Each succeeding death felt like the worst thing to ever happen to me, as I grew up, the degree of the loss grew right along with me, and every single time, it was my parents who had to tell me. In the early years, they had to explain what death meant in a way I could understand, even if Mom wasn't too sad about not having to clean the fishbowl anymore, and in more recent years, they have had to deal with their own intense grief as well as mine.
As I thought about all these events in a matter of mere minutes, I felt bad for my parents. It must have been so hard for them to have to tell me about these things. I realized in that moment, that I would someday have to do that for Samantha. I hope it is a day far removed from this one, but eventually it will fall to Daniel and I to have so many hard conversations with her.
You never think about the hard conversations when you dream about having an adorable baby. You think about little booties, and who she'll look like, and whether she'll be an ASU or UofA fan. I, for one, am intensely grateful for this. As much as I wish I could pick and choose which aspects of parenting I am going to participate in (several orders of tickle monster, star of the school play, and hold the surly teenager sneaking out of the house and sicknesses please), I can't. Because of this, I am very grateful for the selective amnesia that comes with potential parenting--what I believe to be a tender mercy of God. If everyone had a completely clear knowledge of the trials we would have to guide our children through, I don't think anyone would sign up for this parenting thing. It is only after we have the blessing of children that we realize the pain is entirely worth it.
Because of this, I will continue to enjoy baby cuteness as it comes, and try not to worry about the hard times ahead. For now, I'm going to pretend Junior High doesn't even exist, just to make it easier on all of us. I might also hit google, just to make sure Carrie Fisher is still going strong--I'd hate for mom to have to make another phone call.

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