My last living grandparent has been moved to a hospice. My grandfather is better today than he has been the last few days; but he has a kidney infection and pneumonia and he is 93 years old. So we made the time for the hour and half drive to go and see him today at the hospice.
I had explained to the children that their great-grandfather is very sick and probably going to die soon. I see no point in sugar-coating the situation. They know he is very old and they were also fortunate enough to know my maternal grandmother and therefore have experienced the loss of a great-grandparent before. Orangeboy did not seem very interested in the situation. He was reluctant to go up to Granddaddy's bedside and speak to him. He soon found a crossword book to busy himself with during our visit. I think he may actually be disinterested, but it is possible that what looks like disinterest may actually be anxiety.
Orangeboy was very close to my maternal grandmother. She had a special affinity for little children and she could charm and entertain children like no one else. I have many favorite memories of times spent with her at my mother's parents' house. And it never hurt that they had a backyard pool and that my grandmother always seemed to have ice cream, cake, and watermelon on hand. She thought Orangeboy was very special and was very patient with him. She won him by understanding his favorite treats and what interested him. She taught him how to play solitaire and patiently played "go fish" with him. He showed adoration of her like for no one else.
Two and half years ago, she had a heart attack in her bed at her home with no one with her but her little dog. She called the ambulance herself, but by the time they arrived her heart had stopped. When I told the kids that she had died, Orangeboy looked a little stunned. He didn't have much immediate reaction, but for him that is par for the course. I noticed some anxious behaviors over the next couple of days though. He broke out in a bit of a rash and he was engaging in some of his habitual stimming-type behaviors more.
After the funeral, we brought home my grandmother's little dog, Uno. Orangeboy had never shown much interest in animals or pets, but he was very interested in Uno. He even tried to play ball with Uno. I was very surprised. He seemed to be trying to take care of Uno for his great-grandmother's sake. Orangeboy also asked over and over how old "Mema" had been and how old was I and his Dad and his grandparents, etc. I decided he was both worrying and grieving and he needed a way to assuage his worries about death. I wrote down his great-Grandmother's (Mema's) age, his Grandparents ages, mine and his Dad's age. I then wrote out some subtraction problem's for him, subtracting his age from each of the others. He worked out the math and I pointed out how many years older everyone was than him. He pointed out that his great-grandmother was the oldest and that she was more than 20 years older than his grandparents. He nodded and smiled about this. I told him that most people live to be quite old and that it would probably be many years before his grandparents passed away and even longer for everyone else. This seemed to help him and alleviate his anxiety. He held on to the paper with all the ages and subtractions for days and I saw him looking over it many times.
So with his great-grandfather's illness, Orangeboy may just be thinking,
"Been here, done this. He's old. It's to be expected."
But he could also be remembering and worrying about death again. It's something that will probably reveal itself over the next few days or weeks.