Nick King's Blog

I've done some pretty cool things, but nothing's as cool as creating our family

Mortality

If you keep an eye on my blog, you will have seen that the last week has been something of a traumatic one for our family.

My father was taken ill last weekend and ended up in hospital.  There were moments where we were unsure what was wrong.  There were times when we thought he would pull through quite normally.  There were also times when we believed his release from hospital would only be in a much diminished physical state.

Luckily, he has recovered very well and is now home again.

 

The trauma of the week will provide me with a couple of posts about our adopted children.  

This is certainly the most morose.  It is the one that sprang to mind first though, in the darkest days of Grandad's illness.

 

It took a little while for our son to settle with us. 

J was at that time his main carer and stuck rigidly to a routine which provided our scarred and frightened little boy with an environment the exuded safety and love.

As the weeks went on he became increasingly attached to us.  At a speed that seemed to surprise everyone except us.  Our love and attachment to him increasing daily at an exponential rate that seemed to be mirrored in him.

The early days of our sons adoption were a period of mixed emotions for us all.  The shining light of our new family member breaking through the darkness of my mother's death the day before he came to live with us.

Our son of course sensed this.  There were distractions and disturbances in those early days that were unavoidable and provided a constant reminder that someone intangible, unknown, but clearly very important to us all had been lost.

His social worker very kindly came and looked after him for the afternoon of my mother's funeral for example.  

It was therefore unsurprising to both J and I when our son asked, what had happened to Granny.

We explained that she had wanted to meet him so much, but that couldn't be.  That she had been very poorly for a long time and had finally died just before he arrived to live with his new family.

We didn't expect the follow up question: "Will you die soon?"

We were both quite taken aback.  Assurances flowed from us.  We were much younger.  We were both healthy.  We were not planning on dying any time soon.

He seemed satisfied and, for a little while the subject dropped.

 

A few days later I was driving with him.  I've explained elsewhere how the car has often been the environment in which our son has shared his most intimate, sometimes most disturbing, thoughts with us.  

"When will you die?"  He asked from the back seat.

"I don't know, no one knows."  I answered truthfully.

I'm the more religious of J and I.  In fact, I am the one who has religious beliefs full stop.  "I believe that one day God will decide it's time for me to go, and then that will be it.  Not for a very long time, I hope."

Again, this answer seemed to satisfy him.

 

I forgot the conversation and only remembered it one evening a few days later when J and I were comparing, as we invariably did in the evenings, the experiences we had shared with our son.  

J seemed unsurprised.  He reported at least three similar conversations with our little boy in the preceding week.  Each time asking a different version of 'when will you die?'

We debated what to do. 

Behind the negative subject matter of the questions we suspected there was a positive reason, in that as our son became increasingly attached to us, his fear of losing us also increased.  He was testing us.  Checking that we had no plan to check out of his life any time soon.

We were also concerned that, while we had tried to keep as many of the conversations around my mother's passing away from him, this was feeding into his fear of loss.

We resolved therefore to, as gently as possible, face the issue head on.  To raise the question with him, to provide him with the reassurance he clearly sought. 

 

Choosing the car as a venue for the conversation we waited until we were on a relatively lengthy journey a couple of weeks later.

The conversation was relatively brief.  Unemotional.  Factual.  But clearly provided some relief to our son.  Taking the subject beyond our own mortality to the plans we had already began to make for him once the Adoption Order was granted and he became ours formally and forever.  Reassuring him that other members of his new family would care for him if anything ever happened to us his mood seemed visibly to lift.

 

Throughout the next year these conversations continued at irregular intervals.  Propmpted often by moments of stress, or sometimes the reminder from media of mortality.  In one memorable case, as a result of hearing the news that a school-friend's hamster had met his maker.

Slowly, though their frequency has decreased.  As our son eased into the familiarity and security of our family his search for reasons not to be part of that family seemed to decrease.  

Angry denunciations and naughty behaviour designed to force us to push him away.  References to his foster parents or even his birth parents, differentiating us from them.  Questions about life and plans after our death.  All receded as his permanence became assumed, assured, natural.

 

Those queries remain.  He asks occasionally, seeking reassurance as to his guardians in the event we are no longer here.  

The traumas of the last week prompting another quiet, hesitant set of questions as we went to bed on the darkest day of last week.

"Don't worry," I reassured him. "You're stuck with us for a long time.  In forty years time you too will be dealing with me as I'm dealing with Grandad this week."  

"No," he answered.  "I'm putting you two in a home for old people as soon as possible."

Charming!  Yet also affirming.  Affirming that he views us just as any other irreverent seven year old does their parents.