Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rowan asks her first "Why?"

"Daddy?" The voice of my daughter is coming from her room. It's about 7am last Saturday morning, and I do not want to be awake yet. Rowan has other plans.

"Yes, sweetheart."

She gets up out of her bed and comes into my room, climbing up into bed with me. This is often our Saturday morning ritual, which is a compromise of sorts. I get to stay in bed a bit longer, and Rowan comes and snuggles with me. I'll take it.

After lying quietly for a few minutes, I notice that she's brought with her a laminated photo of Aimee, which she's now holding up and looking at. Turning to me shes asks, "Will you make mommy talk?" She does this every so often, and it's her way of talking to mommy, which she does sometimes when she's missing Aimee particularly badly. Usually she tells 'mommy' about stuff going on in her life, things she did at school, activities we've done, whatever. Today she other things on her mind. Oh, and for me, taking the role of mommy has never gotten any easier, but I know Rowan needs this, so I gladly do it.

Me, as Aimee, "Hi sweety!"
Rowan, "MOMMY!"
"How are you, my precious peach?" That was a common nickname Aimee had for Rowan.
"Good. (Pause) Mommy?"
"Yes, sweety?"
"Why did the boat have a leak?"
Oh shit. I wasn't expecting to have to answer questions like this for at least a couple more years. And the truth is, I don't even know all the answers to all the questions she might ask. But I do know the answer to this one. And I can't really tell her, along with many, many other things I can't tell her at this stage in her life. So I quickly improvise.

"I don't know exactly why, sweetheart. But I wish there hadn't been a leak in the boat."
This doesn't seem to satisfy her, but she doesn't press the issue. The conversation turns to more mundane things for a moment, and then,

"Why didn't the scuba people save you?"

Here too I have a fair amount of information about what the crew of the boat did and did not do in the moments leading up to and after the boat sank. Answering her question with complete honesty is going to lead to more questions, and they're also ones I don't want to answer at this stage in her life. Again, I scramble to say something that answers her question in an appropriate way. And I'm still talking as if I'm Aimee, which makes this all the more surreal, considering how Aimee would feel if she were really here to answer these questions herself!

"There were a number of people who did try to save me, sweetheart. But it was too late. I'm sorry, hon, I wish I could still be with you."
Rowan seemed to accept that and after a second's pause said, "Hey mommy, wanna see my new bed?"
"Sure, honey, take me to your room and show me."

Rowan hopped out of my bed and trotted off to her room, still holding the picture of Aimee, and I could hear her explain to 'mommy' about her new bed, the sheets, and comforter I got to go with it. And as she did so, I laid in my own bed and took several deep, slow breaths, and figured the day had to get better from there.

I know this is just the beginning. There will be more questions. And they'll get more complex as she gets older, and simple or incomplete answers won't be enough. As she matures, I do want her to know the truth about what happened to her mother, but I also want to make sure she gets information she can process at her age. That could mean that some of the things that I have already processed and moved on from will be things still to be faced far into the future for Rowan, and I may have to drag some of that back up in myself in order to help Rowan through it. I have to be prepared that as she grows and gains in understanding about the world, she, at some stages, may even find some blame in me, and be angry with me. Maybe she'll feel like I should have stopped Aimee from going on the scuba trip. Or maybe she'll think I should have gone too, and that I could have saved her if I'd been there. Whatever happens, I know that if she does get angry with me at some point, I'll have to just accept that for a time and help Rowan work through it.

All I can do is the best I can.


  1. Pat - your "best" is just perfect! GREAT job Daddy!

    1. I think you give me too much credit, but thank you. :)

  2. Pat, I actually cried on that one. You portayed (talked as Aimee) for Rowan. That is very kind of you, I know it may be hard. But for Rowans young age, you are doing what you think is best. Will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

    1. Thanks Eva. It is hard to 'be' Aimee, but I also know that's what Rowan needs at this age and this stage. Sometimes I imagine seeing Aimee in heaven and her teasing me about my terrible impersonation of her.