Monday, June 25, 2012
I Wish I Could Peel Away Your Humid Human Skin.
My nephew Oskar, who is seven, has this friend called Isabelle, also seven. Isabelle has down syndrome.
Isabelle had a couple of guinea pigs that she loved more than anything in the world, spending a lot of her time talking to them, hugging them, chasing them, and generally having a great time.
The other day Gillian, Isabelle's mum, heard a strange sound coming from the garden. She ran outside, and there was Isabelle. She was covered in fur, and looked a bit concerned. On the ground next to Isabelle was one of the guinea pigs. It was limping a bit, and making an awful squeaking sound.
Turns out Isabelle had hugged the poor thing so tight that its ribs cracked. It died.
Isabelle had literally loved the animal to death.
Isabelle learnt a lot about death that day. She did something bad, to be sure, but there was none of the usual fanfare. No tears, no scolding, nothing broken.
But one of her friends was dead, because of a mistake she didn't know she was making.
As life lessons go, that's a fairly morbid one to go through at seven, especially when you have other uncertainties about the world around you.
I mean, Oskar just lost his dad, and he's obviously coming to grips with it as any seven year old should. By shouting a lot, followed by occasional moments of vivd introspection. But he's a switched on kid. He knows what's up. As hard as the next few months and years are going to be in some sense, he's going to be ok.
But Isabelle is another story. Isabelle has to work harder to make sense of the world around her. Sometimes she makes mistakes. That's ok, we all do. The difference is that Isabelle doesn't know what to make of the end result. Her mate is gone, and it's because she did something wrong. But what was it? All she did was love the animal with all her might.
I feel like the worst thing that could come out of this situation is Isabelle coming to believe that you can kill something by loving it too much.