Practice, I suppose.
|Would you like to hear about my dead son?|
The family who lives next door to us doesn’t know that my son has died. We don’t really know them. We wave when we see each other. We’ve invited them to various backyard parties, my kids wanted their grown-up son to babysit them, they had an old yellow lab who died recently. But we don’t know them. One of the worst things that can happen to a family has actually happened to the family who lives 15 feet west of them and they have no idea. None. It's not their fault. It's just reality. Our other neighbors that share our side fence don’t know either. Should I put notes in their mailboxes?
I’ve wondering if there some sort of grief flag I’m supposed to hang from a tree in the front yard. I’ve wondered if I’m supposed to put a sign in the front windows of the house. Or on my car. I’ve thought about creating some kind of grief band to wear around my arm. It would say something like, “My son just died.” Our society needs some kind of indicator to give the grieving a little way to acknowledge what has happened. A quiet way to acknowledge that walking through the Trader Joe’s or Walgreens is surreal when your child has died. So that others may tread lightly. So that perhaps we’ll see others with grief bands and know that we aren’t the only people to experience this silent and isolating misery. Maybe then we'll feel slightly less isolated, even if we don't feel any less miserable.
I imagine at some point in the future, the neighbors will ask at one of our kids’ lemonade stands: “Where’s your brother? The one with the glasses?” At that point, the kids will say: “Oh, Riley? He died…” A look of confusion will surely consume their faces followed by an awkward series of questions and the inevitable, “I can’t believe we didn’t know.”
It's strange that I cannot manage to speak this news to people--like the man walking his four-legged, rhodesian ridgeback Riley--given I want nothing more than the world to keep talking about him, thinking about him, and seeing his light radiate through everyone who knew and loved him. Shine it out. Yet, I am silent. I'm mainly hiding away, avoiding the conversations, the looks, the inevitable sobbing that comes with talking about my amazing son. Did you know that he could draw the 50 United States from memory? Including state capitals? How I wish I had taken a video of him at the chalkboard as he demonstrated this skill.
I know that me staying hidden away is different from not knowing how to tell the neighbors or avoiding eye contact at the store, but both are about acknowledging what has happened. Sharing the news of his death with the world has been something I haven’t figured out yet. I’m sure if I looked, I’d find some kind of etiquette pamphlet about this kind of thing. This unbelievable, horrible thing.