‘Will you still be my dad?’

‘When I am 10, will you be dead?? Sean asked me, adding, ‘Will you still be my dad??
* * *
I get a peculiar feeling thinking about those questions posed by our darling, blond-haired, blue-eyed, devil-may-care, four-year-old son. It’s been two weeks since he asked, but when I think about it I still feel funny. When he inquired about my status in his future life I was able to deftly parry the question with a quick answer, ‘Sean,? I said with all the sincerity I could muster, ‘when you’re 110 years old, I’ll still be your dad.? And then in a premeditated mumble, as I turned away I added, ‘Even if I’m not alive then.?
My answer, though shrewd, really skirted the issue. He was mollified; I was off the hook, but I hadn’t answered the question. Will I be alive in six years?
God willing, yes. However, you never know when a safe is gonna? fall from 15 floors up, land on your head and flatten you into a pancake. Unlike Bugs Bunny, when that safe falls on you, you won’t be back for the next scene — your story ends. Stop rolling the cameras. Cut. Roll the credits. The End. Hello, St. Peter.
Shamus, now six, asked about death when he was about four, too. As I recall it, he didn’t ask the questions in the same way as his little brother Sean. When Shamus asked it was more clinical. ‘What happens when you die?? or ‘Why do people die?? He wanted to know why he had grandmothers, but not grandfathers.
Shamus asked (asks) questions because he wants to understand how things work. Black and white. Even in his young mind, I think he understands death is a part of life. Were I a betting man, I’d say Shamus will grow up to be a scientist. I recall he was fascinated with cemeteries after his questions were answered because, ‘When people die, they are buried there.?
In particular, he was interested in the Ortonville Cemetery because his Grampa Ted Cottrell’s remains are there.
That interest came and went. I am sure Sean’s curiosity, too, will come and go. But, right now it feels a little surreal. It’s just the way he asked, ‘When I’m 10, will you be dead??
He could have asked, ‘When I’m 10 will you be alive?? I think I would feel better about that question than his original.
I mean, I feel good that Sean can ask me those questions and I feel good, because I feel good. I mean, I feel healthy. I feel wise. But, I also feel funny, because my answer to little Sean should have been something like, ‘Whether I am dead or alive, Sean, I’ll still be your father . . .? Which, could have led to another discussion about life and death.
In truth, I could be dead in 2010. But, I didn’t want to tell him that. There’s no need for him to spend any time thinking his pa could be pushing up daisies in six years because accidents do happen. Freak things ruin lots of lives every day. When the cement hauler lost control of his rig last Friday on M-15, he killed three people in a van going in the opposite direction. He wasn’t trying to, but he did. Had he been driving a safe distance behind the person he was following; had he paid a little more attention; had he driven two miles an hour slower; had the person in front of him not braked — had, had had.
Should I have gotten out bed today, or stayed?
Should I turn left or should I turn right?
Coulda, shoulda, woulda . . .
If, if, if. Accidents happen and sometimes we have no control over them.
So, when Sean asked me his questions, I guess I got a little sad. I could be dead in six years. And, that would mean Shamus and Sean and dear wife Jen would be . . . . without me.
Or, I would be without them.
Mortality is a sucky deal — and I will sure be glad when Sean stops talking about it so I can stop thinking about it!
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