A couple of weeks ago Hannah again asked me how many brothers I have. She thinks it incredible how large my family is, since she has only Charlotte.
"What are their names?"
"Bill, John, Michael, Steven and Tim."
"Who have I met?"
"Uncle John, Uncle Michael and Uncle Tim."
"But . . . that's only three. What about the other two?"
It was the first time she had ever asked me that and I wasn't prepared. But she took my overly long pause as evidence that I had not heard.
"Mom? What about Uncle Bill and Uncle Steven? When can I meet them?"
I hate being lied to, so I try really hard not to lie, especially to Hannah. Evade? Yes. Ignore and/or change the subject when necessary? Yes. But outright lying? Not so much.
So I told her.
"You won't, baby. You can't."
There was a long pause. I think she heard the tears in my voice. Then she asked softly,
"Why Mommy? Why can't I meet them?"
"Because they died, sweetie. A long time ago."
For a few moments there was silence in the car, and then from the backseat, the sound of gentle weeping.
Hannah's not inconsiderable flair for the dramatic stems, at least in part, from her kind heart and very tender sensibilities. But while I was sorry that it upset her, I was only a little sorry that I had told her. She's old enough to hear it and, at whatever age it had come up, it would still have affected her more deeply than it would most others. But still . . .
"It's OK, peanut. Don't cry, please? It was a long time ago. Before you were born."
"It's just that I'm so sad for you. Because you lost your brothers. And because I'll never meet my uncles."
"Mommy? Do you miss them?"
"Yes, peanut. Every day."