Our two kids were swinging in near syncopation at the little park occupying a triangle in the middle of a middle-aged neighborhood.
“How old is she?,” the nice lady asked. I answered 16 months, but caught myself as I tried to focus on the fuzzy calendar in my head.
“What’s the date today?,” I asked, embarrassed at my confusion. She said the number that still takes my breath and stops my heart. I stammered out the amended age of The Girlie, and tried to get back into rhythm by focusing on the swing towards, the pause, and the pulling away. Moving closer, stopping for a split-second, then drawing away. Count to ten.
After a minute, I propelled myself to inquire about her son with the thick head of hair, only to hear another uncomfortable figure: 13 months. And I was back to counting out the swings and catching my breath.
We continued the script, her asking about any other children, and me dutifully derailing the train by telling her about my dead son. It gets easier for me to deliver these familiar words, but I’m more aware of their effect, the swings passing in silence and both of us blinking.
I don’t know what obligates me to report the unkind details of my life thusly, other than a loyalty to my firstborn, and an obedience to the conventional wisdom about grief: “always be honest.” But honestly, I don’t see the point. Telling a happy mom that my daughter is a twin only casts a dark shadow over her bright day, and doesn’t improve my mood, either. I hope there’s some payoff to this painful practice.