It has been a habit of my family to pack books during car rides. The size of our book bag depends on the length of the trip. For our 50-mile trip, our book bag was bursting at the seams.
My 2nd grade boy is quite interested in military machines. I am not thrilled with it, but I guess, all boys pass through this kind of phase. We have been trying to expose him to nonfiction books, so we thought that reading military books is a good way to get him interested.
He brought for the trip his Extreme Military Machines book (published by Discovery Communications, LLC 2011). As he was reciting interesting facts about Challenger 2, stealth bombers and stealth fighters, Humvee, Apache and Chinook helicopters, and nuclear bombs, our conversation in the car turned to Japan, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.
Without scaring the children, but without lying either, I told them about the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. I shared with them that Japanese soldiers killed my lolo, my mom’s father, when they made their way to Lipa. My grandfather was an agriculturist/farmer. He was a civilian casualty.
Both kids immediately wanted to know how my lolo was killed. Before I could even say a word, my daughter instantly said, “Was he speared?”, “Did the soldiers use a machine gun?”
Did he say, ” I am inno-o-o-(cough, cough, cough)-cent.” And, then the spear went through him. Or did he say, ” I am not a sol- (gasp for breath)-dier”, and with his mouth open, he was killed?
My daughter has a knack for theatrics, so as she was role-playing in her car seat, her brother couldn’t help but laugh. Obviously, my lolo’s passing when his youngest was barely one, and my mom, the eldest at 15, is not a laughing matter.
I could not reprimand them for being insensitive. They understand very little about death. (*From ages 6-9 years old, researchers believe that children are fascinated with issues of mutilation, and very curious about what the body looks like when dead.)
I think my lolo was killed with a bayonet, but that, I kept to myself.
Eventually, I told the children that the Japanese left the Philippines. But not before Japan was devastated. Not before the Americans suffered huge casualties. And definitely, not before my ancestral home in Lipa was burned down after the whole town was torched. That story I will share with them at another time.
At the end of the day, they learned that in a war no one actually wins. Not even the country who claims to be victorious in the end.
We set out that morning to go to a Star Wars auction. I did not think that that trip would serve as a brief introduction to the ugliness of a real war.
*Hospice of Southeastern Connecticut Bereavement Program