Big N has come across a math problem he couldn't explain.
"Mommy. Why do I have only 2 grandpas and 3 grandmas? Did my grandpa die?"
I think he was working on this question for a while and it was a tough one to answer. I don't want to scare him and I was not ready or even expecting the death conversation.
As the conversation unfolded, I think he was mixing up who my grandfather was and how all the relatives fit into the family tree. It was like he was trying to fill in a row of pegs and couldn't figure out which peg went where. We've spoken about my grandpa to him in the recent past. There are photos of Big N with my grandpa and he asks who he is and why he never sees him. Perhaps in his mind, the pieces fit together that this grandfather must belong to one of his grandmothers.
We talked about what death means and how you can't see that person anymore. It is ok to miss them. I answered his questions as honestly as I could and tried to keep the explanations concise and exact. I was worried that saying someone was gone would be confusing to him, because there are people that are gone, but they come back and would he think if I made an offhand comment that someone was gone that he might never see them again?
We talked about it and I explained that he was here when he was a baby and he loved him very much. He is not here any more, but he will always love him even though we can't see him.
Big N seemed ok with this explanation.
"Mommy, if he was your grandpa, then he is a daddy. Who is his little girl?"
Big N giggled at this point. "Your mommy isn't a little girl! She's as old as you are!"