A Conversation with Charlie

C: “Mom, where is Dad? I mean, physically. Where is he right now?”

Me: “Well, Buddy, his heart was too big and his body got tired. His spark just flew right on out of there. I was holding his hand when it happened and I saw it.”

C: “So if his body doesn’t work anymore, does that mean he can’t use his brain? Dad always said when he couldn’t use his brain anymore, it was time to move on.”

Me: “Well, that’s a good question. I don’t think it works in the same way we’re used to.”

C: “Can he remember things?”

Me: “I like to think so.”

C: “Is he conscious?”

Me: “I think it’s a different kind of state. Something we can’t really understand yet.”

C: “If he’s not conscious and his brain doesn’t work like it used to, I’m scared he doesn’t remember me. And if he doesn’t know who I am, then it makes me feel different.”

Me: “Different how?”

C: (Pause) “You know how you look in the mirror every day and you see your reflection, right? Like every day. There you are, just like you expect.”

Me: “Yes…”

C: “Well, now I kind of feel like I don’t really have that reflection anymore. Like when Dad stopped being able to remember me, my reflection kind of just disappeared.”

Me: “Oh my goodness.”

C: “What?”

Me: “Not only do you look just like your father, you’re starting to think like him, too.”

C: “Is that a good thing?”

Me: “It is. Just remember, your Dad is always with you. You carry him around in your heart and in your memories, and I feel he is with us.”

C: “I know all that, Mom. I know that when I miss him I can remember him; I just…wish he could remember me.”

Me: (Hugs for hours.)

Charlie Blog

Project Kindness (Day 27)

When I think about middle school, I cringe. Too many hormones, too many changes, too many algebra equations. When I think about the year before middle school, I smile. I had the best friend a girl could have in the fifth grade.

I would not have made it through the fifth grade without Katie and Judy Blume. I have vivid memories of lip synching both Uptown Girl and Material Girl at her house during our up-all-night slumber parties. I remember reading the borderline-scandalous-for-young-adolescents book Forever alongside her and then having to ask her poor mother some rather awkward questions for clarification. I remember co-writing a play, a musical in fact, with her. We even held auditions among our classmates during recess which, looking back on it , may have been a bit over the top. Hey, we were artists. I think the production was about coming together as a community to save endangered animals. The only character I can remember by name was Edna the Eagle, but she sang her heart out. I recall the chorus going something like this, “Please save the animals, please save the animals, please save the animals and you’ll be happy, too! Like me!” It was the sleeper of the year. Katie was there for me during all my “Are you there God? It’s me Margaret” stages. I’m pretty sure it was Katie who convinced me that I was not dying but, instead, becoming a young woman. Thank you, Katie.

Well, now we’re all grown up and our kids are beginning to explore this great big ol’ world, too. Katie’s son, Elijah, was recently nominated to represent his school and community at the Junior National Young Leaders Conference in Washington this summer. He is raising money through this great website, microgiving, that will help him reach his financial goal to attend the conference. My act of kindness today was to give a modest donation toward his effort. As always, I wish I could give more. When I grow up, I would love to run a foundation that distributes money to all deserving charities in my own backyard. Maybe Elijah can figure out how to make that happen. I think he says it best on his site. “This conference could be the thing that makes the difference and helps me to learn how I can become great and do good things for my community.” Hear, hear, young man! Hear, hear!

P.S. Here are some of my favorite answers he provided on his public questionnaire. How could I not like this kid?!

What characteristics do you think you’ve inherited from your parents? To care for other people
If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it? Give it to people who need it
Hobbies and Talents :  I play mandolin. I also play saxophone in my middle school band. I’ve been on the honor roll every year since kindergarten.
List achievements and any future educational plans : I hope to go to college and one day work with animals.