December 31, 2009

Balloon Hospice

Bright has a beautiful heart.

Recently he had a cold, and I gave him a wad of toilet paper to have with him on his top bunk bed through the night. I intended the tissue to be used to wipe snot, not to bond with. But you can't keep that kid from bonding. The next morning, when the bed was made, the tissue was tossed in the trash (understandably). When bedtime came around again, and Bright realized that someone had thrown away his tissue, he cried out in anguish. I mean, the boy wept from the depths of his heart. "My tissue won't know what has happened to him, and he will be afraid without me!" he cried. Daniel and I just looked at each other, half stunned, feeling proud of this unique son of ours.

Three days ago, the gardener applied a fresh coat of white-wash to the bottom three-feet of every tree (something they do here, though no one knows why). Nothing escaped his big brush, not even "Trunk," Bright's "sitting tree." Trunk came into our lives last month when the tiny, sturdy, knobby tree, just off the brick walking path in our courtyard, became the first tree Bright ever climbed. The place where it's trunk forks provides a perfect perch for our introspective four-year-old to do his thinking. As you can imagine, Bright quickly bonded with his tree. He proclaimed that Trunk needed a steady diet of urine and therefore Bright, in caring for his tree, needed to pee on it regularly. You can see what's coming, can't you? When Bright went out to pee on, and then perch in Trunk that day, he saw with horror that his sitting tree had been slathered with white paint, still dripping into the ground around it. Severe drama ensued, and lasted for a good 30 minutes.

Now let me tell you about the balloon.

Yesterday we walked out of the back gate and under the overpass to the corner store behind our complex. We wedged our double-turned-triple stroller (we are always quite a sight) into the store, past the man curing an open pig carcass with a torch, past the 50,000 or so varieties of cigarettes, to the back of the store to buy a new baby tub because Zion had diarrhea in the old one last week when we were hit with yet another stomach virus. On our way out of the store, one of the clerks handed Bright a red balloon.

Typical of goods made in this country which are not intended for export, the balloon began losing air immediately. It survived the night, but today it looks like, according to our village-raised local friend, a cow's heart. Bright and I had a good long talk about "Balloo," which is his name, of course (boys don't typically come up with names like Herbert or Delilah for their toy friends, but rather, twin crocodiles are named "Croc" and "Odile," etc). After my rather solemn blog post the other day, I was primed to break the news to Bright that Balloo was going to die. "It is just a matter of time before all of the air is out of him," I said, "and he will be dead."

What did Bright do? He decided that if Balloo was going out, he was going to help him go out with a bang. The first thing he did was share with Balloo, in great detail, how to get into Heaven. Then he was adamant that I read Balloo the creation account, so he would know how it all began. He wanted me to set up his tent so Balloo could experience camping before he died. He told Balloo about fire (something that no boy or balloon should die without knowing), and he let him smell the (dying) Christmas carnations on t he end table. Our entire morning has centered around death, in fact, but there is a spirit of celebration in our home because of it. I am watching Bright celebrate life, through caring for an expiring friend. Bright is learning to say goodbye.