I have been told that tragedy plus time equals comedy. I do not know how certain I am that this applies to all instances of tragedy, but the works of Shakespeare have been fodder for slapstick and parody for some time, so perhaps in another hundred years or so some of the things that feel impossibly sad currently will become a laugh riot. On a long enough timeline.
Last Thursday, Karen's grandmother came to pick her up from the after school program. Her grandmother explained that Karen would not be coming to school on Friday, and then gave me a courtesy smile as she walked out the front door with her little charge who turned to wave at me. Her smile was more genuine. It was the smile of a second grader who was looking forward to a long weekend. "See you on Monday, Mister Caven!"
It was our after school director who filled me in: Karen was going home to receive the news that her nephew had been shot and killed in a drive-by shooting. The funeral would be held on Friday. She had just a few hours to confront the death of someone close to her. Not in age. Her nephew was twenty-two. The layers of generations and family connections can make things even more confounding. How is this eight year old going to come to terms with this person who showed up as a permanent fixture in her life suddenly disappeared? Worse yet, how will this eight year old comprehend the loss of another young man in Oakland? Family gatherings will be a little smaller, a little more somber.
She is eight. I don't know if the comedic aspects of this tragedy will be available to her for, well, ever. I cannot imagine what timeline will allow laughs to come out of this situation. I can imagine that Karen will laugh again. Kids are resilient. Kids are amazing that way. But not so resilient that this won't leave a mark. A numb spot where grief was dulled down to a child-friendly acceptance for the way things are in the world. In Karen's world, where laughter will take a holiday.