Telling: Altars & Artifacts


gus grieves

Gus came down the stairs last night, after the other boys were sleeping. "Mom," he said softly, hanging back in the darkness, halfway down.I beckoned to him. He came, leaned into me over the edge of the bed, resting his head.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Nothing." But there were tears in his eyes.

I wrapped my arm over his shoulders and stroked his back. "Tell me, Sweetie."

"It's just I was looking at a picture of Odojo," he managed before breaking into sobs. I pulled him onto the bed with me, enfolded him and let him cry. "I'm sorry Mom."

"No don't be sorry. It's alright. It's alright."

"It's just that when I think of Odojo, it seems like there's nothing else."

"Yes," I said, "I know."

"And I crumble."

Watt looked up from his book wanting to know what the trouble was. "He's sad about Odojo," I explained. Watt reached over and held Gus's hand, while Gus cried himself to another resting point.

"I'm sorry." He said again.

"No sorry."

"It's just when I think of him everything seems flat and empty."

"When you think of him, and the loss of him?"

"Yes. That he's gone."

His eloquence touched me like an unexpected gift. The eloquence and what was behind it; the feeling, the familiarity with the feeling, the desire to express and describe the feeling. All the times I ask him how he feels about something and he shrugs off the question with an: All right. or I don't know. But here he was wracked with emotion, in the full flush of the experience, wanting to translate it into words and to offer them to me. And he did, and it worked. I saw how he felt. I understood. I shared it with him. For a while, I simply sheltered him, letting him cry. Then as he quieted we began to talk. I told him that everytime I hear a dog bark I think it's Odojo and run to see, but it never is. He said he does the same thing. He said he wants a picture with him and Odojo in it. I know we have some and promised to find one for him. He asked if I thought about getting a new pet. I said I did. I didn't want to tell him how I long to take in Marian's stray cat. I don't know how we can and don't want to set up false hopes. I told him I think about different possibilities, then I remember that our house is under construction and there's no way we can bring a new animal in right now, that it's frustrating but I keep coming around to the understanding that we just need to wait till our house is fixed, then we can talk about it. Gus took that in. Then Watt started talking about what he'd be eating right then if he could and we walked down the fantasy food path and everyone got giggly and serene. Gus spent the night between us. It's been a long long time since that happened.

A Mother's Journal

field notes from
1997 - 1999