Monday, December 28, 2009

Grief Tonight, and a Memory or Two

We're sending a virtual hug to our son tonight, as word reached Yukon and I that Wolf's paternal grandfather passed away last evening at the age of 90. I don't often speak of my former husband or his family, mostly to preserve everyone's privacy, so those who do not know of our history together may be surprised at this news.

"Popau" (Greek for 'Grandfather') was a tough little bird of a man, having joined the Navy as a very young age (15, I think) and was serving as Chief aboard the U.S. Houston at the beginning of WWII. The Houston was sunk early in the War after an overnight battle that left this young NCO standing on the deck with water lapping at his ankles. He jumped off and spent the next 24 hours in shark-infested waters of the South Pacific until a Japanese patrol picked him up, covered in diesel oil, and transported him to a prison camp notorious for its inhumane conditions and location on the famous "Death Railway". Popau spent the entire length of WWII at this location, working and marching nonstop until liberated. He is a testament to the sheer willpower and force of one man's determination, and my son was a fascinated listener to the few times Popau would share his story.

Wolf, we think, does not know yet of his grandfather's death. I have called the school to check, and they had not heard from his father. I gave them a heads up and told them that we would be down next week to provide our additional support. The timing of our visit, now more than ever, seems providential and we are so grateful we can be there to help our son deal with grief in his own way.

Kids with AS are not always able to clearly identify grief, at least, not how we would describe it. They know sadness and anger, but cannot put them into definable words or concepts and as a result, tend to act out. Sometimes kids will appear stoic, only to erupt much later and for no apparent reason toward those who are not aware of the cause. What we perceive to be appropriate grieving may be lost on the child with AS, as is behavior at funerals or functions where people may be acting in a way uncomfortable and unidentifiable for kids like Wolf.

So, a prayer or moment of thought for Wolf, his father's family, and his Popau, who, no doubt, is now celebrating with his Navy buddies at the Gates of Heaven that they all are, finally, together again. Let the whistle blow, Chief, one last time.

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