question of death

Warning: Do Not Answer That Question

My son: Mama, what number are people when they die?

Me: You mean, what age?

I’m only stalling because I can’t remember average age of death for Americans. And because my birthday is coming up so choosing any number in the 70s is only 40 years away. {sigh}

Me: 80-100 years old.

My son nods slowly. I return to the LEGOs.

E: Mama? I’m going to miss you when you die.

I look up to see big puppy dog eyes filled to the brim.

And I think: OH NO. IT WAS A TRAP!

Me: Oh sweetie, it’s okay.

E: I’m going to be so sad.

{cue crying}

My daughter, not to be outdone, runs over to me, throws her arms around me and says: Mama, I’m going to miss you SO MUCH.

E and N: You’re my best friend. It’s going to be so lonely without you.

{cue inconsolable sobbing for ten minutes}

I’m faced with offering up my immortality like some forgotten stepsister from the Twilight series who wears pink monkey pants to bed and doesn’t even like the woods. Or what? Patting their backs afraid to say It’ll be a long time from now because I’m pretty sure that guarantees me a terrible accident tomorrow?

I continue to squeak out sympathy as my little children weep and rail against the unfairness of life. Against mothers dying and children being left alone. Against the unknown. Against the relentlessness of time and humanity.

Suddenly, I blurt out over the cacophony of hysteria over my death: Hey guys, do you want to watch Inspector Gadget?

E jumps up off his tear-soaked chair: Oh, yeah!

N let’s go of my leg and stands up to say: He’s funny!

Go go Gadget Mama.

But if I think that I’ve gotten away with it, I need to go no further than EVERY OTHER CONVERSATION I NOW HAVE WITH MY SON.

Me: I’m hungry.

E: Me, too. But then you’ll be 100 and you’re going to die.

He shrugs and walks back to his LEGOs.

{cue crying} {by me}

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

16 thoughts to “Warning: Do Not Answer That Question”

  1. Ha!

    He really has accepted your imminent death.

    I remember watching Inspector Gadget when I was little (the cartoon with Don Adams, not the movie) and I loved it. Now I’m kind of missing it.

      1. I kind of remember the movie being a let down…but it is been YEARS, so it might be worth a try.

        I am going to have to see if they have the tv show on Hulu, because if so, I know what Katarina and I will be doing today.

  2. Oh, I’m on to those questions… Like a h awk.

    You,,you’re just too pure of heart and don’t see 3 jumps ahead. Because you’re not all wary and suspectful like me.


  3. I remember having this same conversation with my mom when I was a little girl…if memory serves the sobbing and crying went very much the same way.

  4. In the immortal words of Admiral Akbar…”IT’S A TRAP!!!” You betcha. Now watch for the others:
    1. How do you make babies? (WAY different from where do babies come from).
    2. Is Santa real?

    Kindergarten is a cess pool of unregulated information.

    Good luck

  5. We have had nearly identical conversations, right down to the “what number” question. My answer was “it’s different for everyone” and let me tell you – that did not satisfy H.

    I have the same fear that if I say something like “it’s a long way off” I’ll end up dead in the next 15 minutes, leaving my child devastated and skeptical for the rest of his life.

    Where is the playbook with all the answers about this kind of stuff? I am woefully unprepared.

  6. i totally tell them it won’t be for a long, long, long time. i figure if i die tomorrow they’re going to have much bigger things to deal with than the fact that i wasn’t straight with them. and it’ll be my husband’s problem.

  7. My daughter gets obsessed with that at times – usually at night when she is left alone with her thoughts. She’s afraid of me getting old too, but I tell her – I already am babe!

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