The Incorrigible Night Owl

January 15, 2005

She finally asked

My daughter is a Beatles fan.

The Beatles are part of our everyday lives here at home. There's a framed picture of them keeping watch over our living room. We see their faces every day, hear their music every day, and watch them on t.v. several times a week, at least. We talk about them in the same way we'd talk about family members who lived far away or were no longer with us. So they are a constant presence here. Madalyn knows that John and George are in heaven and Paul and Ringo are "still here."

One of Mad's favorite movies is A Hard Day's Night. She asks to watch "Paul's grandfather" several times a month. This morning was one of those times.

The movie was going along and it came to the scene on the train where George and Ringo are talking and G. hands R. a cigarette. We've talked about it before but she asked me again, "What was George handing Ringo?"

I told her it was a cigarette, to smoke, and took the opportunity to do an anti-smoking PSA. I got in front of her where she had to look at me and said, "That's the reason George went to heaven. He smoked too many cigarettes and got sick and died. So it's not good." (Gotta start early, right?)

I walked into the kitchen and that's when she asked me something she hadn't before; something I wasn't sure I knew how or wanted to deal with. She said, "How did John die?"

I always thought that, when she asked, I might be tempted to sugar-coat the truth some. But then the moment arrived and I realized she needed to know the truth. I needed her to know the truth. So I told it to her. I said, "A bad man shot him with a gun."

She looked at me for a full five seconds as the information sunk in. Then she asked, "Did he (John) try to shoot him first?" That's a four-year-old, I guess. In her innocence she couldn't grasp the fact that one person might shoot another for no reason.

I said, "No, John was just trying to go into his house." And that's where I started crying, of course. I was in the kitchen looking at her through the window and I don't think she really noticed.

She digested the info for a minute and said, "Then he went to heaven?" and I said yes. That seemed to satisfy her and she turned and went back to her movie.

So that was it. I knew she would ask, eventually. I hadn't purposely tried to hide the information from her but it was something I felt there was no need to discuss until she brought it up, herself. I definitely feel I did the right thing by telling her the facts. She seemed to take it well. If she has any more questions I will certainly answer them.

I just wish my answer could be different.