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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Lonely Leaf

The Lonely Leaf

I was driving the kids to school this morning when Fiona started whimpering. "She's sad about the leaf," said Finley. Apparently, a lone wet leaf had attached to the hatchback's window, and it freaked Fiona. I turned around to see her crying. Not pretend crying (which she does quite well), but real tears. Tears for a leaf? From the same girl who watched her 5-year-old Australian friend stone a bunny to death, then held the rabbit's lifeless body without a flinch or grimace?

"Fiona, what are you really upset about?" I asked, even though I was pretty sure I knew the answer. Fiona said, "The leaf is like Daddy. He doesn't have his family, either. He's all alone." My heart sank as I continued driving Oceanbeach Road in the rain. "Oh, honey, Daddy's still with us. He's in our hearts," I said, in what's become one of my stock responses to Fiona and Finley's grief. There's not much I can say to ease their pain. "But I want to see Daddy, and hold Daddy," said Fiona. She has a point. I get it. Totally.

We stop for a light at the intersection with Golf Road, and I pull a composite photo from the sleeve of my day planner. It features a series of photos of Sean, me and the kids - at the Oregon Coast, home, in Italy, on the job shooting video and in a photographer's back yard. The last picture's one of my favorites. We're sitting near a tree. The kids are ages 3 and 1. Both are holding pine cones. Fiona's mouth is open wide, smiling, and Finn's is closed. He looks stunned. The same friend who shot that picture when Sean was healthy would later assemble this composite after he died (thank you, Barb). 
The pictures were enough to pluck Fiona from her despair over the lonely leaf. "That's Daddy at the beach. There's Daddy working at a wedding," she said. "Look, Finley, that's you when you were a baby. You were so cute!" Fiona returned the picture and told me to keep it safe. By the time we arrived at school, her attention was focused elsewhere: "I can't wait to play my ukulele today," she said.
Finley had grabbed the lonely leaf from the car window. He ran to a bush near school. "Here you go," he told the leaf. "You can be with these guys." "Now the leaf has a family again," said Fiona.

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