Kyle Centowski is 56; Christopher Centowski is 9.
“You’re looking a lot better.” Kyle told his grandson. “You’ll probably be able to start at your new school next week.” The boy kept reading. Just like his father, Kyle thought - they both seemed to think that, if they ignored him long enough, Kyle would just go away.
Well, to be fair, Alex had at least agreed to let Kyle visit the kids again, since they would only be home from boarding school on the weekends now. That was something, at least.
“Christopher, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing… hey, give that back!” He made a grab for the book as Kyle took it from his hands.
“Not until you tell me what’s wrong.”
”I told you – nothing!”
“Christopher, you wrecked your sisters’ dollhouse, you destroyed your mother’s flowers, and now they say you’re doing stuff at school, too. Something’s wrong.”
Christopher jumped off the bed and started to walk away.
“Look, I know you’re unhappy because your great-grandfather went away. Believe me, I know how it feels to miss someone, but –”
The boy spun around. “No, you don’t!” he said accusingly. “If you knew how it felt, you wouldn’t have tried to go away too!”
Kyle took a deep breath. He should have expected that. He started to say something, then stopped. Better to just let Christopher get it out.
“My dad says you’re selfish,” the boy went on. “He says you don’t even care how anyone else feels but yourself!”
“Did he say that to you?” Alex had promised that he wouldn’t come between Kyle and the children, regardless of how he felt about his father.
Christopher turned away and shifted his weight uneasily from one foot to the other.
“Did he say that to someone else, when you weren’t supposed to be listening?”
Christopher didn’t answer.
“Christopher, I don’t think its so much a matter of not caring. Sometimes, when you’re really unhappy, the bad feelings just take over everything. It’s not that you don’t care, but you just don’t even think about how other people will feel. I think you can understand that. I think you didn’t want to hurt your mother or your sisters’ feelings when you wrecked their things, but you all could think about was letting all your bad feelings out.”
Christopher still wouldn’t look at him, but he wasn’t walking away any more, either.
“You know, there’s nothing wrong with having bad feelings, especially when something big and sad happens like someone dying. It’s normal to feel really bad. But what I’ve found out, is that the most important thing you can do, is to figure out ways to make yourself feel better without hurting yourself or anyone else.”
“So… did figure it out?” Christopher asked tentatively, turning around.
“Well, I’m still learning,” said Kyle, “but one thing that I think helps me lot, is talking to someone about how I feel.”
“That’s no good,” he said, climbing back onto the bed. “Everyone here is too busy to talk.”
“It doesn’t have to be anyone here. Your new school will probably have a counsellor – “
“No way! They tried to make me go to the counsellor at my old school, and she didn’t even know me but she knew all this stuff about me and she asked all these questions… it was creepy!”
“Ok, so that probably won’t work for you then. But you’ve got lots of other family, lots of aunts and uncles and cousins and things. Maybe we could find someone in the family that you’re comfortable talking to.”
“Maybe - maybe I could just talk to you?”
There was a long pause before Kyle replied. “Maybe you could,” he said.
They sat in silence for a while, thinking this over.
“You know what else I want to do?” Christopher said suddenly, wiggling along the bed. “I want to plant some new flowers, to make up for the ones I wrecked. Can you help me?”
“I could try,” Kyle said, “but I don’t really know anything about planting flowers.”
“Grandad Orlando told me some stuff,” said Christopher. “Maybe I could remember.”
“Now that you mention it, I think he told me some stuff, too… although it was a long time ago, probably when I wasn’t much bigger than you are now. But maybe I could remember too.”
Christopher smiled up at his grandfather. “Maybe we could remember together.”
Inspired by the fact that we finally got Christopher out of red aspiration, by fulfilling all his wants to interact with his granddad :)