I go out to eat. There is something on the menu I have never seen before so feeling brave – I order it. Everyone with me watches as the waiter places the hot plate before me. They watch as I take the first bite. They will decide if they will ask me for a taste after they watch the expression on my face. Upon that bite as they watch me chew and analyze the question waits right there on their lips.
“What does it taste like?”
What can it be compared to? Give us a reference point. Does it taste like chicken?
When my dad died I had a lot of people who understood ( at least they thought) how I felt. I’ve had friends who have lost parents and I can strongly empathize but I know deep down that I don’t know the nuances of their relationship with their parent. I don’t know how they feel.
Maybe that is the lesson. We need to stop thinking we understand. After all, is there any way to figure out if chicken really tastes the same to me as it does to you? There will never be a way to analyze and prove that one way or another.
What seems to be important here in the human experience is that we figure out a way to find some common point upon which to relate. The danger is we manufacture, make-up and invent common points, we project our own feelings on to others without really being able to understand their feelings because it takes too much time and energy to listen. We are quick to check it off our list.
We say the words that are meant to close the door and secure it when others want to talk about the uncomfortable, the sad, the grievous. “I know” we say. Even though we don’t really know at all.
When my son died no one could stand to watch for long to see the expressions on my face as I entered this time. I lost friends. I did not loose my son – he still lives in me – but I lost friends. They don’t want to know how this tastes.
I have made friends with people who have experienced the death of a child. The facts about what we have tasted go unspoken. We can sit together in companionable silence assuming our feelings resemble each others. There is nothing to prove and I can accept it when they respond to me “I know”. Yet this connection wears thin too with time.
Family members have a hard time with me too. Perhaps because they think they know me, having grown up with me to a point (when we were barely grown up at all) and the changes they see and can’t pinpoint frighten them.
I have always wondered if ghosts were real. Now at times I think I have become a ghost drifting through days, down halls I have always inhabited, interacting in a flimsy way with the “real world.”
I pay attention to people with what “we” call disabilities. I see how they work to compensate to function in a world not built for them. I relate to that now. I spend a lot of energy compensating. I thought it would change with time and it has but instead of becoming easier it seems that once one hurdle is crossed another is in its place.
I am hyper vigilance. I have tagged a lot of triggers and know where they are. There are unexpected triggers everywhere and I have to be on my guard. Time is precious and entire days can be destroyed with a hidden trigger.
I can not really relate to the situation I am in either – not really. It is never quite “done” and I don’t like how it tastes. I do not understand it. There are no rules. This person, my son is present and not present. He is here and not here. I am not asking anyone else to understand either yet I keep trying to explain- if only to myself. It doesn’t work. I can not explain how this feels or tastes or looks.
Nothing is adequate. It is not like when I lost my dad or my mom or my friends that have died. It is not like when my daughter was sick, or when I miscarried. It is not like anything else. It is this. My son died. He is still twenty-nine and I am still his mother. Yes it will be soon be the fifth anniversary of his death and it is still yesterday.