Breakdown on the Playground

Ethan had a major breakdown yesterday.

He was playing outside at Kids Klub, the after care program at school (don’t even get me started about the use of the “K”s and the lack of punctuation), when he lost it. Tears flowed. Fists balled up. And piercing screams came out of his little boy body.

The college-aged counselor supervising the playground had no idea what to do.

Luckily, on Thursdays, the program supervisor is at the school. She was able to pull Ethan aside, hug him, and comfort him.

Apparently, the cemetery set him off. When I first visited the school, I thought it was a little unsettling that the church cemetery butts up against the playground. You can’t miss the gigantic tombstones just off the rock wall or the huge monuments near the swings. The living and the dead play near one another at St. B.

Interestingly, he was crying about his grandpa more than his dad. He told Mrs. B that he was sad about his grandpa. Why did he have to die? Mentioning his dad was almost an afterthought of his grief. Kind of an “oh, yeah, and I’m sad about my daddy, too.”

Last night, after his shower, I held Ethan for a long time. We read parts of a grief book that my mom bought last week. Some parts don’t apply to our situation, but others seemed to resonate with him. Ethan asked why he didn’t have anything of his dad’s to remember him by – unlike the photos and hanky and keepsake box and some other small things that he has that belonged to his grandfather and that Ethan keeps near his bed.

The truth: I don’t really have anything of Mike’s anymore. Mike either took his stuff to his parent’s house (and I haven’t gotten anything back except two broken laptops – even though I asked for a few things specifically) or it’s in storage in St. Louis (which I can’t access until I’m officially named trustee of his “estate”). I started explaining that daddy didn’t live with us when he died, so there really isn’t anything of his around. Then I remembered the shirts.

When Mike came to get his clothes in September, he left behind three button-down shirts. I don’t know if he purposely left them or if he just didn’t notice them in the corner of the closet. But I have these three random shirts – a white dress shirt, a striped Ralph Lauren shirt that he never wore, and a casual shirt from his law school days. “Ethan,” I said, “how would you like one of daddy’s shirts?”

Ethan ran down the hall to my room. He picked the casual shirt and immediately he put it on. “Look how BIG this is!” he said. “It’s down to my ankles.”

He giggled as he struggled with the sleeves which practically drug on the ground. He wore the shirt around last night, during Lauren’s bath time and during story time. Then he took it off and placed it on top of his stuffed animals, next to his pillow. “I want to sleep with it here,” he said. “This is the stuff I cuddle.”

Heart. Broken.

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