One major drawback to having a parent die (aside from the obvious) is that the absence of a parent kind of makes you a social leper when it comes up in conversation. In fact, there are no conversation-stoppers quite like “She’s dead” when someone asks about your mom. I was talking to someone over the weekend about this phenomenon. Luckily Jessie is a lot more comfortable talking about this kind of stuff than most people are.
One Thursday afternoon at SNP, a group of us chipped in to get a pizza. I was already having kind of a bad day, and I didn’t help myself out in that social setting. We were eating in the break room, and someone made a forgettable joke about my family. Another person said, “You better hope Meryl’s parents aren’t divorced or you’re going to feel terrible you said that. They aren’t, are they?” And I responded with what was meant to be a joke: “No, but my mom’s dead.”
There are no quieter silences. Too soon, too soon. That fun lunch just went south from there.
On Friday, my boss was telling me and another co-worker about how her boyfriend was recently diagnosed with diabetes. He is having trouble getting in the routine of better eating. I told her my mom completely changed her life around when she found out she had diabetes, and lost a lot of weight and got back to good health. It was meant to be encouraging, even though my boss knew about my mom. My co-worker didn’t, however, and asked how my mom is handling her diabetes now. Since the SNP incident, I have learned that it is slightly more delicate to say someone has passed rather than that they are simply dead, so I said the following:
“Well… she actually passed away of cancer, but I assure you it had nothing to do with the diabetes.”
“Oh!” she said, stunned, and instantly sorry she asked. That’s enough to convince me not to bring up my mom in everyday conversation anymore.