“Daddy, why does Nana spend so much time in the hospital?”
I was still on chapter one of the long awaited sequel to a fictional novel that I had started to read some time ago. It seemed like I wasn’t able to finish a single page without a new mind-boggling question from my precocious little girl Sally descending on me like plague of locusts distracting me from finishing a complete sentence.
My Sally was in double digits now at ten years of age. She had already skipped a grade in school and we were considering placing her in one of those accelerated programs that kept gifted kids interested in the content off the material they were studying at school. Fortunately, we lived in a community and a State that appreciated the benefit of supported education for the residents with “gifted” offspring regardless of the National pressure to “dumb” kids down to supposedly “leave no child behind”.
Sometimes, I felt that I was responding to her questions in a way that ignored the simplicity of her thinking and I got far too “deep in the weeds” confusing the issue completely. Unfortunately, that was my personality and it was unlikely I would be changing this late in the game.
“Well, dear, your grandmother is getting along in years now and older people get sick a lot more often than younger folks.”
Sally looked up at me with her legs tucked up under her bottom and twirled a wisp of hair in front of her ear with her long, thin fingers that were so unlike mine.
“Are you a young folk or an old folk, Daddy?”
That was a question that I found on my mind more often these days since I was past the forty year line of ended youth. Years ago it was “don’t trust anyone over thirty”, but these day it was “you better start thinking about social security if you are over forty”.
I knew my mom had just celebrated her seventieth birthday and she had always been proud of the fact that she hadn’t changed her lifestyle all throughout her life. That seemed to be a common denominator with older folks these days. They all wanted to pretend things hadn’t changed and that they could do the same things they did when they were still in high school. I didn’t think that was my attitude because I never was one to follow the herd.
I studied on her question for a moment and then replied,
“Honey, I guess I am closer to being a young folk, but the simple truth is, somedays, Daddy feels a lot older than he really is in terms of actual years”
I watched her absorb that tidbit of useless information and she came right back at me with,
“I am a young folk, Daddy, isn’t that true?”
Now, Sally had it right back where she wanted it with her as the center of the universe. She was truly self-centered, but that was adorable in a ten year old.
It was one of those times when I had to be careful what I said because if she interpreted it the wrong way, we would be sure to have problems down the line.
I cleared my voice like a mature adult and said,
“Yes, dear, you are right at the beginning of your life. We are all here at the grace of God trying to do the best we can to set a good example for those younger than us.”
She looked up at me with those wide-open hazel eyes and asked in her loveable, little-girl voice,
“Does that mean the old folks like Nana are not going to be around much longer?”
Now she was getting down to the meat of the issue. I had been trying in my evasive manner to avoid a direct answer and she was truly an expert in painting one into a corner and watching him or her squirm until they had to admit the suspected response. I decided to respond with diversionary shift of focus.
“That’s a funny question, Sally. Please don’t ask Nana that question because it might upset her.”
In a way I was answering her question without actually answering it directly.
I suspected that Sally would be able to see through my subterfuge easily because she was an excellent chess-player and often was thinking several moves ahead just like one of the masters that needed to look into the future in order to stay ahead of the game.
She was smiling now and I knew that I was in trouble.
“Oh, Daddy, now you are being silly.”
I kept my mouth shut because I knew she was just getting started. I marked my page and just waited for the rest of it.
“Sister Mary Margaret told us that we are here only temporarily and that we would be moving on eventually to another much longer existence. She told us that we would be going to our “reward” if we continued to be good little boys and girls.”
She paused for a quick moment.