but grief doesn’t replace joy
Those days surrounding Louie’s death and the year afterward were long and sometimes pointless except for the simple fact that I had our children to raise. we returned from NM and Notah began kindergarten immediately.
I debated with myself over whether to send him I could easily have kept him home for another year because his birthday wasn’t until September 19th. But after much thought I decided to send him for the simple fact that I believed he needed to meet people who didn’t know his father had just died adn who hugged him and cried over hm and didn’t let him escape from the loss for even an instant.
His greatest fear was that something would happen to me while he was in school. So for a week or three I went to school with him. Kindergarten was only two hours long so I asked his teacher for a chair to sit across the hall from the classroom door. the first few days he would periodically check to make sure I was there. I told the teacher she didn’t have to leave the door open but she said she usually had it open anyway so it was a simple thing for Notah to walk past the door or across the room and look through the door. I sat and read for those two hours.
After a few days, the glances into th ehallway became less frequent. and I began asking Notah if it would be okay for me to go to the grocery store after I dropped him off. At first he asked if I’d be gone long and he checked when I came back. Then one day I came in and was sitting there a long time before he discovered me when the class went outside for recess. A few days after that I asked him if I could if I go to ceramics class while he was in school and he said that was okay.
When I came in after my class to meet the group leaving the building the other children were more concerrned than Notah was. They had asked at first why I was there and I had told them the truth–that Notah’s daddy had died and he wanted to go to school but he was worried about me so I came to help him be sure I was okay while he was in kindegarten. Young children are tremendously compassionate and understanding. Everyone sympathized and they were all happy to see me and every one said, “Hi, Mrs. Howe” when ever they had the chance.
I have to say some good words about the compassion and understanding of the kindergarten teacher, too. She was only a few years from retirement and was an excellent teacher, devoted to her students in a way that many younger teachers aren’t. Her concern for helping Notah work through his grief was outstanding.
She put up with me sitting in th ehallway and even offered me a chair in the classroom, but I wanted to be there as inobtrusively as possible so Notah would learn to be comforatble without me.
In mid spring Mrs. Brown called me one day. She was excited with her news. Notah had not spoken of his Daddy during his entire school year. And wisely she did not push the subject. but this sunny day, she was happy to call me with the first account of a little boy coming to grips with his grief. The class had been outside picking dandelions in the wide lawn behind the school. With his hands filled with bright yellow blossoms, Notah had walked up to her and showing her the flowers said, “My Daddy died.” And then he ran off to play with his friends.