Thursday, February 18, 2010

Really old

Merlin, aka Ah-ah-ah, in better days

The family dog Merlin is dying.

Natalie calls him Ah-ah-ah. We haven't told her he's dying. But she can see it. His face is gray and he's limping. He has an aggressive tumor on his front leg that's eating away at the bone.

"Ah-ah-ah is really old," Natalie says. "I not know when he die."

I tell her that yes, Merlin is very old. And I don't know either when he's going to die.

She nods and then shrugs. And moves on to another topic. But I see that she has been thinking about death, as much as she can understand it. I can see her anxiety, her fear of being left.

It's not exactly new, though. This is a child who stood at my parents' window, whimpering for hours while Tony and I were out. A child who runs through the house in an anguished search for me if I'm not in my bed when she wakes. It's getting better, though. She's gaining confidence. Yet there is Merlin now, and he is really old.

This morning she came into bed to cuddle as Tony was shaving.

"Is Mama old?" she asked.

"No, I'm still a young woman. And you're a little girl." She pulled back to look at my head on the pillow we'd been sharing.

"Mama has gray hair."

"Yes, but it was just one strand and I pulled it out."

"Oh." She then asked whether my mother was really old. ("No, just older than Mama.") And what about Tony, because he has gray hair on the side of his head. ("No, he's the same as Mama. Still young.") Daddy? ("Same, honey.")

"I have gray hair when I get old?"

"Yes. When you have gray hair, I'm going to have a lot of gray hair. But I will still be your mama and you will always be my baby, even when you are an old lady. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Mama. Always, always, always," she said.

"Yes, always."


  1. Always!
    Beautiful post, honey.

  2. dang.
    you made me well, again.
    really lovely post.