Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Jack and Hoover
Jack loves Hoover. He loves Hoover's ears and how soft they are. When we first told Jack that Hoover was dying, Jack knew what that meant because he's asked us repeatedly about Shemya, our first dog. My mother painted a beautiful portrait of Shemya and we have pictures of Shemya scattered all over the house, so even though she died before Jack was born, he knows of her. He knows that she died of a heart attack when she was old, that she's not with us anymore, and that she is in heaven. He also knows that Great-Grandma Ann died when she was old and is in heaven, too.
When we told him that Hoover was old and dying, he went into denial. "We are NOT saying good-bye to Hoover!"
A few days after we broke the news, Jack played his guitar and sang, very matter-of-factly:
"I don’t want you to die. Please don’t do it. Please don’t diiiiiieeeee!"
One morning last week, Jack saw Hoover lying on the ottoman and asked, "Is Hoover dead yet?" When I said no, he said, "Okay." He then went to Hoover and rubbed his ear. I wonder if he's afraid of touching Hoover once he's dead, but because of his autism, Jack can't answer questions like that. It's extremely unusual to get a good answer to any question that isn't completely concrete and specific. "What do you want to eat?" "Do you want to ride your bike?" These are questions Jack can answer.
"What are you thinking about Hoover's dying?" That's hard for us to know beause if Jack answers at all, he'll usually say, "I love you, Mommy" or "I don't want to talk about that now." How much beyond the literal does he understand? That's been harder to discern.
Saturday night, as we went upstairs to go to bed, Jack paused at my mom's portrait of Shemya. He kissed two of his fingers and placed them on the glass over Shemya's mouth and said, "Don't worry, Shemya. He'll be with you soon."
It seems to me now that Jack understands enough, probably more than the rest of us do. I just wish the understanding made it easier to say good-bye to our furry friend.