I was eating a bowl of cereal at our kitchen counter when Annie shuffled up to me boasting an adorable, “cat that ate the canary” smile. I immediately smiled myself and said, “Uh-oh. That is quite a face you’ve got there. Whatcha up to, sweetie?”
Annie lifted a crinkled photo from her side and said, “Look, Dadda. It’s Maddie!”
As Heather discussed yesterday, Annie has grown tall enough to snatch things she shouldn’t from counter tops, and in this case she had trailed off into our master bedroom where we keep Maddie’s urn on a table surrounded by a few of her photos, and stretched her fingers out as far as possible to snag this one:
Upon seeing Maddie’s photo all mucked up and crinkled I snatched it away and snapped, “No, Annie! Not Maddie!”
Annie’s smile disappeared and her eyes opened wide as saucers. I immediately felt terrible. Though the photo of Maddie was a beloved, meaningful one, it was still just a photo… one we have on the computer and can easily re-print.
If Annie’s big sister was off playing in another room when this happened I never would have reacted the way I did, but she’s not in the next room. When you lose a child seemingly insignificant mementos take on a greater meaning because they are among the few things you have left of your child. And so, with so little of Maddie left, a photo of her is important.
But it’s not so important that I should snap at Annabel over it. Annie is discovering Maddie… her sister… and though she doesn’t understand what that means just yet, she is interested in this beautiful, big-eyed, smiling little girl.
Annie’s coming to grips with having a sister who passed away is not going to be easy. It will be hard for her to wrap her little head around, and she will need to do some grieving of her own too. As her parent it is my job to help her through all of this, but flipping out when her curiosity leads her to do something harmless like take a photo she’s not supposed to doesn’t help.
It’s all very difficult. I don’t want Annie to ever feel like the fact her older sister died hurt her relationship with me in any way. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this, and resolved a million times over never to be the damaged Dad who creates bad memories for her. But now we are getting to the point where she is old enough to start understanding who Maddie is, and I’m already screwing up.
I have more work to do, I guess. There is so much emotion wrapped up in all of this. I just know that when all is said and done I need to make sure that Annie loves me and her sister without holding any hard feelings.