Friday, March 28, 2008

I'm sorry, I'm sorry, little bit afraid

Driving Munchkin home from daycare yesterday afternoon, I wove carefully around the potholes while trying to decipher the stories she was desperate to tell me. One was about a dog--that much I could figure out, having been helped by the notes in her daily log that explained one of the staff had brought in a dog for show-and-tell. Munchkin was explaining, from the back seat: "Mom! A Willow in a-circle time! Little bit afraid, little bit afraid. Crying! Willow woof-woof, gentle gentle, be gentle, little bit afraid."

Willow is the name of a dog owned by one of Munchkin's cousins. The daycare dog, by contrast, was named Bailey. Close enough. There was a dog, Munchkin was a little nervous, and then some stock phrases about being gentle to animals, and what does the dog say? Okay. I think I understand.

Then her next tale. It goes like this: "Mom! I'm sorry .... I'm sorry ... I'm sorry. Evie! I'm sorry Evie! Crying. Fall down a-outside. Gentle gentle, no pushing! [Munchkin] fall down, [Munchkin] a-owie. Crying. I'm sorry ... I'm sorry ... [Munchkin!] No pushing in a-snow."

I couldn't, ultimately, figure out who pushed whom. All that was clear was that the incident of the pushing and the apology and the hurt had made really struck Munchkin, had impressed on her that actions have consequences, and that these can be painful. Apologies can soothe, but the pain is real, the offense hurtful and the regret lingering. She continued apologizing and admonishing, whimpering and forgiving, over and over.

I tried to reassure her, but her impression was, after all, true: sorry is good, but sorry doesn't erase what happened, and sometimes, you feel lousy even after your head-bump doesn't hurt any more.

My eyes were misting up, though, not necessarily because my daughter is learning this hard lesson of, well, being human, but mostly because something terrible has happened: one of the babies in the infant room has lost her father this weekend. Baby I-- is a couple of months younger than Munchkin, and they were in the infant room together all fall. I--'s mom is very young, a student. I know what that's like, and I always make a point of saying hello and admiring I-- (who really is adorable, and adored) but she consistently looks right through me. If she's like me and my sister at that age, she probably figures she has so little in common with bourgeois old old married and settled me that I'm an alien to her. Fair enough.

I--'s mom and dad were no longer a couple, and while I am not privy to the details of their lives, the newspaper reports that he spent weekends with his daughter, and ran a photo of them together. He was young, too. A student. Out with friends this weekend at a local bar, he made a dumb mistake on the way home, misjudging the drop from a retaining wall on an impromptu shortcut. His body was found the next day in the local river, where he had fallen to his death.

I'm struck by the tragedy of it, all round. What a dumb way to die, a silly accident, preventable but with a consequence way out of proportion to the miscalculation. The kind of thing that might happen, really, to anyone, but maybe especially to someone young, someone so full of life as to attempt a midnight river-crossing to shave some time off a long cold walk home from a night of fun. What a tragedy to his daughter, whom he loved, and to his daughter's mother, who kept the family functioning, was working out the dynamic of the present to create a future.

There is a collection at daycare, pooled funds for a contribution to a trust fund for Baby I-- that has been set up by her father's grieving friends. I can't imagine how they must be feeling.

In the car, listening to Munchkin work through her fears and her regrets, trying to make sense of her experience to ease her own hurts and anxieties, I realize this is a process that never ends, that we all struggle with all our lives. Once home, I held her close to me, sniffed the strawberry scent of her hair and rubbed her round round belly, as if I could keep everyone near me safe.

I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Little bit afraid. Crying.

25 comments:

Patti said...

Wow. Really profound post.

I think that Baby I--'s mom, although she looks through you, will remember the woman who went out of her way to be friendly. Things like that make an impact.

Thanks for this post.

Patti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
alejna said...

Oh, how awful. That death seems so pointless, so preventable. What a shock.

But how wonderful that Munchkin is telling these narratives. It is good that she can express her feelings, and tell you so much about what she has experienced, what she is thinking. I can't help but be impressed at her linguistic skills.

At the same time, I can understand how it is hard to hear her going that "process that never ends," as you so eloquently put it.

Sandy D. said...

I love your blog. I drop in from time to time. I'm a relatively new blogger and just beginning to leave comments for bloggers I follow. Will keep Baby I and her mom in my thoughts.

metro mama said...

Oh, what a tragic story. I'm sorry too.

Jenifer said...

Stories like this always make me pause and ask that eternal question of why. Why him? Why that way? Why? Why? Why?

I have no answers though. Just faith somehow, some way it will work out for Baby I and her mother.

Don Mills Diva said...

Beautifully expressed post. Horrible things can be so random - it's terrifying to think we can't protect our little ones from them...

naomicatgirl said...

That is so sad, and tragic.

Keep smiling at the mom. SHe may just not know how to accept the attention. But she will remember it.

Cloud said...

What a wonderful post.

Gabriella said...

Oh that's a sad thing to hear. That poor girl and her little one

kittenpie said...

Oh, that is a terrible thing. I'm so sorry to hear that. It's like every parent's worst nightmare, or one of them. I'm sure that mom will rise to it and do a fine job parenting, but what a thing to carry, which will only make a tough road that much tougher. If only everyone could be safe... if only.

Not Your Regular Mini Van Mom said...

Poor little girl, it is so sad. It scares me when I hear about random oddball accidents that happen. You can teach your kids to wear their seatbelts, not to take drugs, never drive drunk...how do you prevent them from fluke accidents? it is scary being a parent!

the end of motherhood said...

If I really paid attention to how fragile things are, I could never let my kids out of my sight.

Kyla said...

Such a sad, sad story.

(on a side note, how old is Munchkin again? KayTar is starting to relate experiences in a similar method, although not quite as well, and I'm just wondering when "normal" kids do this. LOL.)

Beck said...

God - that just hurts the soul, doesn't it? Locally, the father of four beautiful children was killed when his tractor rolled on top of him and I was haunted by it for MONTHS. I don't think there's any way to harden ourselves against the fear of this loss.

Raz said...

This was a beautiful post.

Bon said...

just seconding the chorus that this was a beautiful post, Mimi...all that was happening in Munchkin's mind and your own regarding consequences and regret, all the risk that this living is made up of.

little bit afraid, indeed. Munchkin clearly has the important words down.

Dawn said...

That's simply so sad.

It breaks my heart when a child so young loses a parent. The idea that he or she will never get to know that parent and will forever feel that a part of their own soul is missing.

Of course, it also makes me angry when parents take chances. When they fail to see that they are not only endangering their own lives (of course the young never realize their endangering lives since they believe themselves to be invincible), but they threaten to ruin the lives of their children.

So, so sad.

You captured the emotion beautifully.

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

I'm sitting here in tears.

So profound...so terrible.

Angela said...

Feeling so very sad for little I and her family. Going to give my kids a hug and a kiss.

nomotherearth said...

How sad - no kid should have to grow up without a father, Especially by such a random happening.

Beautifully expressed.

JENN said...

Those kind of stories just want to make me hold my children more tight and more close and never let them go.

It seems Munchkin and Little Bean have the similar ways of speaking. Good for you for trying to understand!

Christine said...

this is so so sad to hear. that poor child. it reminds us how fleeting life is, huh? how in a weird freak minute it can all be gone.

ok-- i am really depressing myself now.

NotSoSage said...

Oh, Mimi. Something very similar happened to a student years ago when I was at that university. It gave me chills to read this. And to think of that baby and that family - broken or not, they're even more broken now...

I'm a little bit afraid, too.

Cheryl said...

I love your writing. I visit your blog from time to time and now I think it's time to "delurk".
This was such a perfectly written post...
How sad for that poor family. I'm sure that the baby's mother will appreciate the support that she's receiving from you & other families at the daycare.