How much should I share with strangers? How honest should I be? Should I spare them the awkward moment and spare myself the looks of pity? I’m faced with this decision on a regular basis.
Teaching preschool requires some professional development. It has never been my favorite way to spend a Saturday morning, but it’s even harder since losing Lincoln. The same goes for social gatherings. It’s the small talk that gets to me.
I was having a pleasant morning, but was running a little late. I played loud music on the 20 minute drive and let myself relax. It didn’t occur to me to worry about meeting new people. I rushed in the door just before it was time to begin. The presenter introduced herself, spending some time talking about her education and background. And then she said what I’ve come to dread. It was time for an icebreaker. To get to know one another, each group would find a way to organize themselves. The catagories would be up to us. As my table gathered together, one woman made a suggestion, “How about we order ourselves by the number of children we have? Do any of you not have kids?” I clenched my fists and stayed quiet as everyone else arranged themselves. Silently, I took my place in line where I belong: 1 child. I held my breath, hoping it was over….. It wasn’t. “How about subcategories by age?”
For a second, my vision blurred. My hands began to shake. Everything felt a little far away. How do I answer when they ask how old he is? Do I say the age he should be? Do I just tell them he’s a newborn? Do I tell the whole messy story? I didn’t have long to decide. I made it quick. I stated facts. “He died during delivery, but he would be eight months old.” The reaction was the usual. A chorus of ‘oh no’ and ‘I’m sorry.’ Everyone moved on quickly and the training carried on; but my heart was heavy.
After eight months, I’m still wondering if these interactions will ever get any easier. Will my voice still waver every time I tell someone that he’s gone? Will I always panic when conversations about children come up? If this does become easier, it won’t be because I don’t miss him. I’ll always wish that he was here with me. I’m still always caught off guard by these kinds of questions. It would be less awkward to lie, but I will never leave him out of my life. I’ll always tell people about him. He’s the biggest piece of who I am; a missing piece.