Feeling unprepared is a pretty big part of parenthood. In a way, it’s kind of a theme. You might have thought every imaginable angle through and considered all the hypotheticals, but you’re never really prepared in the true sense of the word until that new thing actually happens and you have to deal with it. Before all the stages and milestones and beginnings arrive you really don’t have a clue how you’re going to react.
Hearing my daughter say “I don’t want my sister to die” falls into that category for me.
Things are a bit heavy around here right now. There are a lot of changes going on, a lot of things to face, not the least of which is the fact that our dog – their sister, as we have always called her – is dying.
I sat with my furriest daughter for a few minutes before I left this morning. We talked about the simple stuff and I rubbed her belly. I thanked her for all of this and left it at that. I didn’t want to give her the heaviness that was on top of me. In my head were thoughts of finality and impermanence and just how different things are going to be in the next days and weeks. I didn’t want all of that to come out of my head and hands and land on her, though. It was, of course, just an exercise in comforting myself. Thoughts manifest themselves in energy. She knows that as well as I do. Probably better.
When I got in the car I heard Carole King being interviewed on NPR and it took me back to when I was a kid, before I did adult stuff like contemplating death and listening to NPR. I remember listening to “It’s Too Late” riding in the car with my mom and singing along to a chorus that I had no way of processing. I knew nothing of romantic love, let alone the saturation that comes with the end of such love. But I could feel something in that song. Without any context with which to frame what I was feeling, I always focused on the line “something inside has died and I can’t hide” and that song became my own adolescent contemplation on death itself. Symbolism, evidently, had yet to occur to me. Or maybe it had.
Hearing that song today and King talking about it didn’t bring on the same equivocal sadness that I felt when I was a kid. I have reference points now and my own experiences to inform my emotional reaction to the song and, specifically, that line. Now it just flashes me back to riding alongside Mom in the Honda and then to some of my own relevant relationships. Hearing it today also got me thinking about my girls and how they must be feeling as they process their own contemplations on death.
We found out Jasmine was sick a few months ago and there have been many conversations with the girls to follow. But now things are moving quickly and they can see her deteriorating. The talk last night was about how it would most likely end. The disease itself won’t take her – it will probably need to be a conscious choice to let her suffering stop. And as much as we try to frame that in a way that can be digested by these two young minds, there is no getting around our hand in it and the pinpointing of the moment that we are coming to.
That was when Rainbow Pony said she didn’t want her sister to die. And that was a moment I was wholly unprepared for, despite the many hours that all of this has circled my mind.
Being prepared in the sense of having an answer or correct canned response would have been wrong, though. We humans have no answers to these things that would explain away the difficulty. We’re not supposed to have answers, just like the song that I so completely misunderstood when I was young talked about in regards to failing love. The answer is to just experience it, to sit with it and to let it become a part of you.
“Something inside has died and I can’t hide and I just can’t fake it”
So, in the face of something we could have never prepared for, we did the best we could do. We didn’t hide. We sat on the kitchen floor, all five of us and we hugged and pet our dog and we let it be what it is. The girls have no way of wrapping their heads around this and that’s okay. They don’t need to. They just need to experience it, as we all do, and to know their parents are there to hold them and love them and experience it with them.
I know I’m not prepared for the next thing that will happen either. And that’s okay, too, because I know I’m not supposed to be.