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  • In August, our son, Harrison, celebrated

  • his third birthday.

  • He is our second child.

  • And yet, we have never parented a 3-year-old

  • before. Because Harrison has an older sister who

  • never turned 3.

  • An older sister he'll never meet.

  • Four years ago, my daughter, Greta,

  • was sitting on a bench on the Upper West Side of Manhattan

  • with her grandmother when a brick fell

  • from an eighth-story window sill and hit her in the head.

  • She never regained consciousness.

  • She was 2.

  • When Harrison was born 15 months later,

  • I became a father to both a living child and a spirit.

  • One child on this side of the curtain,

  • and another whispering from beneath it.

  • Greta became our reference point

  • for Harrison's every move.

  • We compared their sleep habits, their behavior

  • on the playground, their first words,

  • and their first tantrums.

  • We loved how they were different from each other

  • and how they were similar. But only until Harrison was 2.

  • Now that he's 3, we're in uncharted territory.

  • It is a bittersweet thing watching him reach milestones

  • that Greta didn't.

  • Potty training took on the momentous feeling

  • of an unknown country.

  • His sister never got that far.

  • Sometimes, watching Harrison grow,

  • I'm reminded of how little we'll ever

  • get to know about Greta.

  • Harrison's personality is a public fact.

  • He smiles wider and cries louder

  • than any other child in the neighborhood.

  • But Greta's own tendencies and quirks

  • remain only in her parent's memories.

  • Once, she was a person imposing her will

  • on the world.

  • Now she is our lonely private fact.

  • When Harrison was a baby, we would tell him

  • little things about Greta.

  • Greta loved bananas, too.

  • Greta was a real pain about sleep.

  • But he is older now, and I'm more reluctant to say

  • her name when he is around.

  • It's not Greta's life I want to keep secret,

  • but how she died.

  • A brick destroyed my first child.

  • And now, I have to deliver the knowledge of that brick

  • to my second.

  • It will teach him lessons I don't want him to learn.

  • So I stall for time, bargaining.

  • My superstitions about Greta's accident have died down.

  • I don't cross the street anymore

  • to avoid passing under construction sites with him.

  • And the first time Harrison smacked his face

  • on the jungle gym, filling his mouth with blood,

  • I stayed calm.

  • When he reached for me, screaming,

  • he saw no fear in my eyes.

  • Recently, he pointed to a picture of Greta

  • on the refrigerator.

  • That's Harrison, he said.

  • That's Greta, buddy, I said, correcting him gently.

  • That moment reminded me that someday, before long,

  • my wife and I will have to sit down and explain

  • to him that he has a sister and why she's not here.

  • So I hold my breath and wait for the question.

  • Sometimes, we dread it.

  • Sometimes, we yearn for it.

  • But we are on his timetable.

  • Greta lives inside of Harrison somewhere, murky and

  • luminescent.

  • He knows she was a person, and that she's not here,

  • but that we love her very much.

  • And for now, that's enough.

In August, our son, Harrison, celebrated

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B1 TheNewYorkTimes greta harrison child sister brick

My Daughter Died. How Do I Tell My Son? | NYT Opinion

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/04/07
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