Monday, October 13, 2008

Death And Toys R Us

Our 82-year-old grandmother - my husband's mother - is dying of breast cancer. Her youngest grandchild - our 9-year-old son - who is used to people dying every day in car crashes, falling off cliffs, and getting blown up into a million pieces in massive explosions, but who then, instantly pop back up on the next level - does not quite know what it will really mean. When it happens he may just think she is now on the next level, and we won't see her again until we ourselves get there.

It reminds me when my oldest son - now 29 - had his first Nintendo, and Mario became a permanent member of our family. From then on, whenever I called the kids to dinner - his "reassurance" to me that he was on his way, was: "OK, Mom... I guess I'll just kill myself." - in that floppy-eared, defeated Eore voice.

My kids ended up killing themselves regularly to comply with dinner rules.
I was always a bit uneasy about that. Somehow video games have given us this take on death. Kind of like Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Last week - when days of homework, soccer games in the rain, and all the other stresses of being a nine-year-old came together in one devastating moment of having to postpone the purchase of a five dollar toy, I said to my wailing child:"I understand your disappointment, little man, but let's think a bit about how distraught you are right now, in contrast to last week's rather calm reaction when I told you that Grandma might be dying."

"I know Mom... I get it... and I know I'll be really sad when she is actually dead, but now it doesn't seem sad to me - 'cause she's still alive!That's why I can't be sad about her now, and it's why I can't be happy about getting that toy all the way next week, either!"

Checkmate. Once again, reminded by one of my children of what it's like to live in the present.

But - he did wake up to the vast difference between "life and death issues" and issues of mere childhood consumerism. It was a growing-up day. We celebrated that he wasn't a baby anymore. To babies everything is a life and death issue. He was very pleased in the end about this grown up delayed gratification.

Then, we received a - just in case- early Halloween card in the mail from Grandma - which contained a surprising $10.00 bill - to spend on something fun. The card played a spooky song when you opened it and featured lots of skeletons dancing around a fire, and announced - "Halloween is just around the corner. I can feel it in my bones!"

"Me too!" Grandma had signed the card.

We drove to ToysR Us the very same day, happy that Grandma was still alive.

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