Friday, August 7, 2015

My boy and the moonlight (and astronaut pee) (and mortality)

 Blue moon over Arlington, VA. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky) (Public Domain Image)
Blue moon over Arlington, VA. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky) (Public Domain Image)

It's a cool night, summer slipping away and new challenges on the horizon, and I'm looking at the moon with one of my boys - the one who has reached my shoulder height but still cuddles in my lap on a daily basis. It's a sweet moment among so many sweet moments I have with this kid.

So it's a little jarring when he pipes up with this one: "We're all going to die."

I'd be lying if I said this was the start of a surprising conversation with this particular child. He's been a little obsessed with mortality since my grandpa died a couple of years ago. I've learned to roll with it.

"Yes," I reply. "Does it make you sad?"

"Well, I'm going to invent a machine that lets people live forever, way before you die, Mommy." 

"That would be interesting!"

He designs his immortality machine over and over again lately, filling notebooks with complex diagrams and algorithms that make sense only to him. But tonight, I don't launch into the Socratic method and lob questions at him about what society would do with limitless population or what quality of life issues might arise if we lived forever. He's such a tireless worrier. A worrier warrior. 

And it's hard even at age 40 to accept my own mortality and that of everyone around me. At 9 it's impossible to even catch the edge of the implications here - we are all going to die. Life is fragile. Shit can happen in the blink of an eye.  The weight of it all can be so paralyzing. I don't have to add to his pile tonight. 

"You know what's cool, though?" I ask.

He thinks for a long minute. Rhetorical questions mean nothing at age 9. 

"Astronauts have peed in space and then that pee was released into space so the pee is kind of part of our atmosphere now?"

"Well, no. Wait. Is that actually true?"

"I think so!"

"Hmm. Well, sure, that's kind of cool. But the other thing that's cool is that we're here right now. I'm here, you're here, and life is really great. We share so many wonderful memories and that will always be true," I say. 

"Until we die, you mean."

"That's kind of true, but we can leave things behind, like stories and writing and art and photographs..." 

"Yeah but then everybody who sees those things will also die and eventually no one will even know who you were. That's reality, Mommy."


"It's ok if you don't know what to say. I don't know what to say either! Life is strange! Anyway, do you think the astronauts also farted? Like the ones who have floated around in their suits? Could that kill someone?? All that methane gas trapped inside with them???" 

"Let's just look at the moon."

And we did, and it was good, and I was reminded once again how much I love these complicated/simple moments with these burgeoning little souls. 

Because he's right, you know. We're here for just a little while in the big scheme of things. Is there a greater gift than spending that little while with people you both like and love?