Sunday, July 26, 2009

Talking to Pokey

I woke up late this morning and as I was coming out of my room I heard my youngest son talking away. About the time I was in the hall and about to step into the livingroom where he was I heard him say"Pokey" and I stopped. He was talking to his brother and I didn't want to intrude or embarrass him. I listened as he told his brother about the pictures we have hanging on the wall to remember him. It then got quiet and I stepped into the livingroom.. I should have waited. As I stepped in I saw my youngest standing at Pokey's memory table touching a picture of his brother and telling him quietly he missed him. When he turned and saw me he smiled and tried to act like he was just there. I didn't say anything. I knew I had interrupted a private conversation and I felt bad. And I want him to be comfortable and have these conversations with his brother. If it helps him to talk out loud to Pokey I will not stop him or allow anyone to shame him for doing it.

Micheal and Anthony were buddies. When Micheal was home he would make sure to to take his little brother out to ride go carts, get icees, go to lunch. He always made sure to give Anthony a day of attention. Even on short weekend visit Pokey made time. And Anthony looked up to Pokey and looked forward to their times together. It was amazing how Anthony would light up when Pokey said " Come on Tojo let go do something". Micheal told me to buy a Hi Ho Cherrio game for Anthony for Christmas so they could play when he came home. For a while it was all Anthony would talk about. How he was gonna beat his Pokey at Hi Ho Cherrio. Pokey talked about it too. He would ask if Tojo had been practicing and I would tell him that Anthony cheats.

When Micheal died we weren't quite sure how to explain it to our youngest. He is not your typical kid you see. He is mildly retarded with developmental delays. So at 9 ( when we lost Micheal) it was like trying to explain what had happened to a 4 or 5 yr old. We avoided the usual " He's sleeping" explanation at the advice of a grief expert. We told him that a bomb had gone off and hurt Micheal really bad and that he had died. But that he was in our hearts and always with us. Anthony thought on this for few minutes and then put it together. He told us and others that a bomb had broken Micheal's body and it didn't work anymore. But that Micheal was everywhere now.

Often we forget that no matter how young a child is they hurt and miss those who have died also. It was very important to me that all of Micheal's sibling had a say in the funeral and were allowed to grieve as they needed to. That included the youngest. So when we were driving to the visitation and he started sing a song he made up as he sang about and to his brother we slowed the car down and let him have the time he needed. And when a year and a half later I find him standing in the livingroom talking to a picture of his brother I let him. And I keep in mind it is healthy that he feels he can talk to his brother.

And the occasions when he needs to talk to one of us about Micheal we let him and try to answer his questions honestly but on his level. And I allow him to say what ever it is he feels or thinks. He has said that Pokey being gone "sucks" and he has expressed his anger at the bad guys. Just as there is not right or wrong way for adults to grieve the same is true for children. It's their grief and they get to do it their way. The difference is they need our help because they don't always have the words to express themselves. Sometimes we need to listen to what's not being said. I'm lucky with my youngest though.. he makes it easier to help him because really has very few filters.

I'm glad Anthony talks to his brother.. it breaks my heart but I'm glad he has found a way to keep Micheal with him.


David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 07/27/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

A Soldier's Mother said...

Damn...just when I think you couldn't amaze me more... you go and do it again. You are so right to let Anthony grieve in his way. There's an amazing organization here called Koby Mandell Memorial Fund (think that's it - they run Camp Koby). It was started by the mother of Koby Mandell after she realized that while she had an amazing support system in place when her son was brutally murdered at the age of 13 in a terrorist attack...her other children did not. She and her husband founded Camp Koby, where kids related to war and terror victims can come and just be normal. She runs sessions for mothers too - where they can laugh because they all don't feel like the world expects them to cry...and by extension, they can cry when they know the world wants them to appear healed. It's an amazing organization and I thought it it as you described Anthony. I'm so glad he can talk to Pokey, so glad he had such a fine older brother to remember and have in his life.

I resisted through this whole post thinking about Elie and his relationship with his two youngest siblings...and yet it's there in my mind; how he comes home and does things with them.

I hate saying this because I really know you are going to hate this, but you continue to be an inspiration to me and to so many others because you show how important it is to live, to choose life, to learn to handle, to cope.

I just got an email from the father of the boy killed a few weeks ago. He told me that he's learned he has to live with "chronic pain" and it just doesn't go away. I thought of you and realized, doesn't.

I'm so glad Anthony was talking to Micheal. Please tell your husband I miss his blog and hope he's doing okay. I think of him a lot too.