Like most parents, it seems, we teach our three-year-old son lines from The Godfather. For example, sometimes Jackson forgets to say "please." Imagine! So, one day Jackson wanted some gum or something and Jack started coaching him. "Say please," said Jack. "Please," said Jackson with just that perfect touch of imitation teenage exasperation. "Please, Daddy, I love you so much," Jack continued, beginning to sound vaguely Italian. "Please, Daddy, give me the gum!" said Jackson. "Please, Daddy, I love you so much I'm-a gonna die!" said Jack. Jackson eventually kind of whispered the line, giggling with what appeared to be his first flush of parental embarrassment. Naturally we were pleased that we had successfully turned him into a little Clemenza*.
Jackson only said the line twice, as I recall, and then he said he wouldn't say it anymore because he didn't want to die. And suddenly it seemed to be time to talk about death. I was unprepared. Jackson asked me if I was going to die. I said not for a long time. The he asked if he was going to die. And I said not for a long time. Then he started getting really worried and saying he didn't want to die, at all, ever. So I started trotting out The Various Theories of Comfort. "Some people believe that we have a spirit inside us that never dies," I told him, and he liked that. "What's a spirit?" "It's your energy," I said, wondering if Jack was going to line up with me on this one. "Do mummies have spirits?" "They used to, now they're just dead bodies." "Why do they put food in mummy cases?" Argh. But then I thought, fuck it, let's go Buddhist on his ass, and I started telling him how some people believe that when your body dies your spirit goes into another body and you get to be a baby all over again, and he was all, "Whatever. Can we go to the store and buy some Bubble Tape?"
Then we were in the movie theater restroom taking a quick break from Racing Stripes** and in the echoey pink tiled bathroom he piped up reassuringly for all to hear, "We're not gonna die because we have spears inside us!"
My little holy warrior. I have to keep remembering that even though he can sing the entire alphabet, the age of reason is still down the road a piece.
* Clemenza's showing Mike how to make spaghetti sauce when Kay calls for Mike on the phone, and when they're done talking she says, "I love you, Michael," and Michael says, "Uh huh," and Kay says, "Aren't you going to tell me you love me?" and Clemenza knows exactly what's going on and he goes, "Mikey, why don't you tell that nice girl you love her? I love you with all-a my heart, if I don't see you again soon, I'm-a gonna die!"
**Don't. Just don't