So here is how it went down:
The evening before we left for my mother's, I talked to Charlie while he played in the bathtub, wanting to give him some warning. "Charlie, when we get to Lala's tomorrow, Grandfather's not going to be there."
Crumpling face, tears, his. "Why not?"
Crumpling face, tears, mine. "Well, he was riding his motorcycle and he got hurt very badly. Most of the time when we get hurt, a kiss makes it feel better. Sometimes we need a Band-Aid. And sometimes we need to go to the doctor."
"And we get a sticker!" he said, brightening.
"And almost always," I continued, plowing through his fond memories of a sticky-backed SpongeBob, "the doctor can help make us good as new. But Grandfather was hurt so badly that the doctor couldn't help him." I paused here, having an awful time with this.
"When will we see him?" Charlie asked, making little splishes in the water with his toy plastic razor.
"We won't, bunny. He died. That means we won't get to see him anymore. But — " I got ready to lay it out just like y'all told me: We'll always remember him. We'll always love him. And I'm sad because I miss him, but I'm okay.
Didn't get that far. Charlie had lost interest. "May I please have some shaving cream?"
The next time he mentioned it was several days later in his room at my mother's. It was early in the morning and the three of us were visiting before breakfast. Charlie was playing in his bed, hiding under the blankets while we pretended not to be able to find him.
And then he popped his head up, an idea suddenly having occurred to him. "Grandfather is hiding!"
Crumpling face, tears, mine, while my mother just sat and smiled.
Charlie eagerly continued, face peeping out from the blankets, "He wants to come back and live with us."
So I opened my mouth, lower lip all atremble, doggedly willing to explain. But then he chirped, in a singsong tone, "It's time to go down for breakfast!"
And that is how it went. Now I would like a sticker, please, because, man, did that hurt like a bitch.