Sunday, August 2, 2009

Those Awkward Moments

It was inevitable. There were going to be those times when I bumped into someone I hadn't seen in a while and I would get the socially polite, almost requisite question, "So, how are your girls?" I am not sure why I had not mentally prepared myself better for it. But, I got it not once, but twice this weekend. Both times were equally awkward, hard for me and hard for the person who just felt as though they stuck their foot in something awful and aren't quite sure how to pull it out. With my friend Linda's funeral looming ahead of me, I need to be prepared for it to happen again. So how does one properly handle those moments? I have no idea. I wonder if I should wear a sign that says "Don't ask me how I'm doing or anything about my family." Of course, that would clash with the outfit, so it's probably not the best choice. Maybe an announcement at the beginning of the festivities. "Attention everyone, when Cheryl gets here..." Of course, both events were open houses, so that really wouldn't work either. The reality of it is that this will always happen to the three of us in some form or fashion. Even when Marissa goes back to a new college this fall she will be questioned about her siblings by people feeling her out for potential friendship. Even if Greg and I move a 1,000 miles away, people will meet us and want to know where we came from and what our backgrounds are. Bottom line, this is our new reality.

How did I handle it? Well, I tried to downplay it as much as possible and just move past the awkward moment as fast as possible. The first time I was hit with it was Friday evening at a wedding reception. Probably the tougher of the two settings since everything is set to celebrate new beginnings. Already a hard night for that reason and for the wonderful slide show the families had looping of the bride and groom as they grew up, including a picture of the bride as a little girl in her driveway on her new bike. I have almost an identical one of Kelsey, and for some reason every time I looked up, it was that slide I saw. But, she was a beautiful bride and very solicitous of me and careful to put me at my ease. Another friend kept a close eye on me, and I was safely about to make my exit when I ran into a woman I haven't seen in a number of years. Naturally, she asked. The best I could do was gloss over the information, and I think I left her with the impression that Kelsey's death was some time back, not just a few short weeks ago. But I still could see the shadow cross her face. It's not so much grief over a girl she barely knew, it's the panic of, "Oh no, now what do I say to her now?" I really don't want people to say anything to me about it because there isn't that much to say, particularly if you only know me casually. I don't want her to feel bad, and I certainly don't begrudge her asking, but I just wanted to be done with the conversation and be able to leave. We exchanged a few more pleasantries, with her clearly now feeling awkward about telling me about her beautiful family with her youngest daughter standing right there, but she did, and I listened and then left as the rain began to fall. I was grateful for the raindrops, they covered my own.

I woke up Saturday morning incredibly ill and had this moment of panic that I was having a reaction to the stress of the reception. I actually felt some relief when I realized I had a virus of some sort, and am not going to vomit every time I go somewhere in public. Still recovering, I ventured out to Linda's viewing yesterday and, sure enough, there came a woman I hadn't seen since she left the company some years before. This time, at least, the occasion was already a somber one, but it wasn't being held for me, and I didn't want the focus to be on me, although Linda's family were all very aware and were already treating me like I was glass. But, when the topic came up this time, my friend Francine was standing there and answered the question for me, explaining how recent my loss was. I am not troubled by that, but I couldn't brush off the event as something in my distant past, so I just smiled what I hope was a self-deprecating smile, but was probably a grimace, and the former co-worker took the hint to move the conversation along with her simply saying how sorry she was to hear it. But that same, "Oh crap!" shadow slid across her face. I will have to learn to deal with that look somehow, because I will likely see it for a long time to come.

How does Greg deal with these situations? He tries to avoid them altogether. In fairness, he's had more than his fair share at work, but he flatly refused to go to either function this weekend. I, on the other hand, felt as though these were important people in our lives. I would want them there for me, so I was going to be there for them and needed to go. Much as I would like to on my worse days, I am not able to retire from society altogether. Greg disagreed, and tension ensued because I was vaguely upset that he was sending me off on my own, and he was upset that I was putting him in that position. I saw his point of view, he saw mine, but for once, there was not really a compromise we could find. Today, however, he is a pallbearer, so he cannot avoid it. About all I can do, being the veteran of the awkward social moment now, is make sure I stay close at hand to deflect any small talk.

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