My parents tell me these stories about a small child that they knew years ago. She was a delightful obnoxious little thing. I cannot believe that we are actually the continuum of one person. Just like I look at pictures of myself up to the age of 5 and am amazed that this photogenic little thing and I are an almost exact genetic match (taking into account occasional accumulated uncorrected DNA damage).
Today over super spicy chinese food my mother told me the following.
My paternal grandmother died when I was seven. She had come from Korea to visit us three years before and I had been her translator at the corner store and whenever we watched television. She, in turn, kept me from trying to wear my pants as some kind of bizarre corduroy turtleneck. On more than one occasion.
My father was making travel arrangements to fly to Korea for the funeral. And I could not understand why. I kept asking my mother why Daddy had to fly to Korea. Why couldn't Grandma come and see us? She would explain that Grandma had died. She couldn't come to see us. Daddy had to go see her. We were never going to see her again. I took this in and 20 minutes later I asked the same questions again. I wanted a different answer. I was a stubborn little thing.
My mother bought me "Charlotte's Web" and read it with me. I cried and cried. I got it. When she asked me about the end of the story I told her that the baby spiders were spinning webs but Charlotte was not because she was dead. My mother went on to explain that that's what happened to grandma. She was dead. She was could not come and visit. That's what happens in life. You are born, you grow up, you live and then you die. My father told me to think about all of Charlotte's children, the little spiders that were going to live happy lives and carry the memory of their mother.
I remember reading Charlotte's Web, crying my eyes out, talking about death with my parents, and coming to an understanding of Grandma's death. I did not know that my mother had turned to E.B. White for help in teaching me this life lesson.