“How many kids do you have?”
This is the latest dilemma my husband and I have had to figure out. What’s the right answer?
“One here, one in heaven.”
What the hell do we say?
That first choice up there would obviously spur a litany of questions none of us wants to deal with—not me, not my husband, not the complete stranger who was just being polite and will probably never see us again. The second choice could cause some awkwardness, too. Take, for example, the recent situation my husband encountered.
You see, he likes to play golf. We live down the street from an easy, inexpensive, nine-hole course. So come springtime, after work, he tries to grab nine holes, at least once or twice a week.
Last week, on a particularly lovely Thursday evening, he took off to play, alone. There were three guys in front of him, reasonable golfers, but there were three of them and they were enjoying themselves, so no matter how poorly he played any particular hole, my husband kept catching up to them. And the single guy behind him kept catching up to him.
While waiting for the group in front, my husband watched the guy behind him make a poor shot. He could tell exactly what was wrong, so he told the guy. Fast-forward to the next hole, and the guy’s shot improved. While they were yet again waiting for the threesome in front of them, my husband said, “My son and I used to take lessons, every other week. My son was doing the same thing you were, and the coach corrected him, told him what I suggested to you.”
“Oh,” said the other golfer. “How old is your son?”
“He was thirteen.”
The guy nodded, totally missed the past tense verb (because who’s expecting that??), and said, “How come he isn’t playing with you tonight?”
My husband paused, couldn’t think of anything else to say, so said, “He passed away, back in March.”
And then they both felt uncomfortable. Because no one wants to hear that, no one wants to say that, and no one has a clue how to recover from such a conversation.
And yet, saying, “I have one kid and one kid only” doesn’t really work either. Because we had two. For the last ten (almost eleven) years, we had two. In fact, it’s still automatic to want to say, “Two.” I don’t know when—if ever—that instinct will go away. And as people constantly remind us, we still do have two. It’s just that one is in heaven now.
It feels uncomfortable leaving him out of conversations, because that feels like leaving him out of our lives. And as much as it hurts either way, he was very much a part of our lives, at least for thirteen years.
So what’s the right answer? I don’t know. I suppose it will depend on the conversation, although, like the conversation my husband had with a fellow golfer, it’s still bound to get awkward. Because let’s face it: being the parent of a dead child spurs a plethora of emotions and feelings, very much including…awkward.
Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, and writer of blog posts that are somehow helping her cope with the grief of losing a child. When she isn’t blogging about–and dealing with–real life, she likes to write happily ever afters, one book at a time.