As I said, any great relationship usually has a great beginning. As I have navigated my life after the devastation of the death of my son, and the death of my marriage, I quickly surmised that some things are better left unsaid.
I was 36 when these events occurred. Ten years ago, I was a shell-shocked fragile woman. My entire life was in upheaval and I suddenly found myself in a place I never thought I would be. Single and a Mom who’s child had died. I was quite the showstopper at a singles mixer. Not that sort of showstopper- the good kind-more of a “Kill joy” sort of showstopper. I learned this very quickly the first night I was out with friends at a dinner they begged me to come to. That night I quickly realized that not everyone I would meet merited the explanation of my life.
Think about it. We say too much most of the time in life. We explain things, give excuses, try to reason with others when really it isn’t necessary. I remember the looks on the faces of the people I would meet when I would tell them I was a Mom and one of my children had just died. Nothing about me, how I looked, who I was or anything about my other children mattered, I was some sort of strange creature to them. I was already some sort of oddball in a room of singles because most of them had never been married and had no children. They hadn’t even begun to contemplate that area of their life.
So, I had decided that when I met someone and they would ask “Oh you are a Mom, how many kids do you have?” in that moment I would have to determine how involved in my life this person was going to be. For instance, if I was never going to see them again, or depending on where I was when I met them, would determine my answer to this question. If I was never going to see the person again my answer would be “I am Mom to 3 children.” Which is true. If the person was someone I knew I would be connected to in life for some time or I saw the potential for a “great relationship” I would tell them, “I am Mom to 4 children…” Then they would usually say, “4 children, you have 4 children? How old are they?” Pause again. Tricky question when one of the 4 died when he was 11…so, I settled on this, “My oldest is 23, a son who is deceased WOULD BE 22, daughter 18, son almost 17…” If they caught the “WOULD BE”, they would usually politely ask what I meant by that and I would explain.
It took some time for me to figure out how to handle this simple question. My friends became accustomed to my replies. They would pause, look at me and listen closely. I guess after a time they could quickly figure out if I was ever going to speak to the person again by my answer. I must admit, I was not a fan of being introduced by someone else in this manner. “This is Kathy, she is a Mom too; she has 4 kids, well 3 now, her oldest son died from leukemia………” I would just smile politely and wonder why they were telling my story. I’ve found myself in situations where my answer to this very simple question was used almost as a way to strike up a conversation, like it was some hidden talent of mine. This mystified me often.
I would be in the other room, and hear adults whispering about it; “Did you know that one of her children just died…” Or someone would jump in and answer for me, “oh she has 3 kids…” This is a tricky question. Not one you ever really prep for to answer when you are heading out for a girl’s night out…certainly not a question you’d hear addressed on a red carpet by a celebrity like “who are you wearing…”
“Oh you’re a Mom, so how many kids do you have?” Yeah, I’d say there is about a 2-3 second window of silence for me to decide how to answer that simple question…if I’m being asked by someone I’ll never see again, or want to see again, I answer one way. If the person asking was going to be in my life, well then I give them my heart answer…”I’m Mom to 4 children, 3 are still with me, my oldest son is deceased…” I hate to make a judgement call in a split second whether or not someone will be in my life or not; but I have too…because truly some things are better left unsaid.