NO EASY ANSWERS
10 April 2002
"Where is Paul these days?"
That sure wasn't a question I expected to hear.
I was at the club this morning, lying on my back doing my leg press exercises and the
woman had come in to work on one of the other machines. We knew each other from the old
days when our kids had been in school together.
How do I answer that question?
"Where is Paul these days?" I responded, hoping she'd realize that
she'd made a mistake. His death had been front page news for a week, the controversy over
the cause of his death carrying over for weeks after that.
Maybe she just got the names mixed up. But no. She said "Yes, what is Paul doing
But how do I answer it without making her feel terrible for asking?
There was finally no way around it. "Paul died," I said.
She blushed. "Oh right," she said "Maybe I meant Tom," she
stammered. I rushed on to tell her what Tom was doing.
"Yes, I did remember you'd lost one of your kids," she said.
Uh..... now how do I respond to that?
"Actually, we've lost two. David died in 1996 and Paul in 1999."
Damn. I hate that. I don't mind talking about the kids. It doesn't bother me any more
when the subject of their deaths comes up, but I hate watching people feel uncomfortable.
So I did what I always do. I talked very fast and made a joke. "I've issued an
edict," I said. "Nobody else in the family gets to die for a long time."
She continued to fumble to find the right words. I rushed on to ask her about her own
children and what they were doing now. That's always a safe thing to do and helps the
uncomfortable person find a place to focus without talking about "IT."
Then it was time for me to move on to another machine.
I finished my morning routine and started to leave the exercise room. As I was standing
by the bins putting on my jacket, from the other side of the room, I heard "two
children died?" as one of the other morning exercisers apparently was asking her
about what he'd overheard. I quickly left, so they wouldn't notice I could hear and become
Interesting that this conversation came as we are entering "anniversary
season." Paul will have been dead 3 years next week. David will have been dead 6
years next month.
You know you're adjusting when you have to stop and count how many years it has been.
There was a time when we knew how many days...how many weeks...how many months. Now I have
to stop and think....Let's see...1996 was how many years ago?
It's an inevitable adjustment.
I hate it.