We have a star outside our back door. No, seriously, a real star. Up in the sky, but right outside our back door.
Often at this time of year, we make our way back to base in the dark. And it’s always through the tradesman entrance for it’s nearer the car rather than walk around the house to the front door.
It’s another clear night, so we see the stars. “Where’s mummy’s star, daddy?”
“Remember, Conor. Look straight up and over your head. See the brightest star? That’s mummy looking down on you.”
“I want to see mummy. When’s mummy coming down, daddy?”
Answer that one. I’m open to suggestions here folks. Hug your boy for all you can muster, turn on your heels and fumble in the dark with the back door key.
“Mummy’s always there for you Conor, she’s always looking over you,” I clumsily managed to blurt out, while rooting around for the classic distraction tactics as we take hats and coats off in the utility room.
He’s a smart wee cookie (of course, I’m biased), so I knew these types of questions would be coming down the track soon enough.
But what do you do? Make up some BS lines that I have no clue whether they can be true, but they seem like the right things to say? He’s only two-and-a-half so his question, and more importantly, my answers need to be framed in the best way possible.
Like so many other unfortunate children who have lost a parent at a young age (or any age), we must tread ever so carefully while their little imaginations are still processing the world around them. I am under no illusions the stark reality of what he is missing will hit home in its own time.
The obvious scenario I dread most is the school playground when the last bell of the day rings and parents await the daily educational evacuation. It’s easy just now, Conor practically runs to his nursery and when picking him up the running leap of an airborne hug never fails to fill your heart. They are the simple things that make you smile.
For now, all we do is try to keep the wee guy smiling. It’s an easy task to be honest, for he has an effortless zest for life, much the way his mummy did. He most definitely puts dad’s more sober disposition in the shade.
It’s no surprise that Conor looks up to the stars, he is fascinated by heights and ladders, it could be a Fireman Sam thing. He often clambers over the sofa with his fire engine and raises the ladder towards the family pic with mummy in it. “I rescue you, mummy?”
There is no manual on how to protect your child when the hard questions are fired at you. What’s the right thing to say; do you dress it up; offer some sense of truth and reality; make up a new story or keep to the same one. Fudge it, call it or simply run with what feels right at the time?
It’s quite ironic that Gill asked for the words Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to be included in her funeral service. Yes, Gill was that organised, nothing left to chance, I merely followed instructions and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’s inclusion was entirely appropriate.
We might well have the brightest star outside the back door, but Conor is unquestionably this house’s little star.
(Main pic of the night sky courtesy of History of Newcastle, Co. Down Facebook page)