Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Grudge Tuesday

Disclaimer: I realized that a good many of my grudges are set in the PESD (Post Elijah Stress Disorder) time frame. So, as I mentioned before, even the memory that has created these grudges has clearly been influenced by my stark view of life at that point.
Okay, now that that's out of the way.

After Elijah was born, my friends really thinned out. It is probably fair to say this was for many reasons. Like, for one, nobody in their intellectual or empathic mind could possibly understand, unless they were living it, what it was like to be parenting a child who had special needs - not dealing with the child so much as the diagnosis...or lack thereof...and the endless parade of doctors...and the membership of this new parenting club you never voluntarily joined. And that can be quite isolating in itself. Then there is just the basic reality of the fact that you have no more time to socialize, what with all the OT and PT and EI appointments... And then there are the other ones. The ones who just don't call - well, they didn't know what to say...as they tell you this apologetically when they finally do call or run into you at the farmers market.

After Elijah died, my friends really thinned out. I guess it would be fair to say that this was also for many reasons, but-
hey - fuck that. Fuck FAIR. My child died. So fuck off with the fair.
Oh. Sorry - got carried away.

Anyway, rest assured, the good friends were there for me, supporting me and calling me every day to make sure I was still breathing. Which is why I am still alive. Really. But today is not their day. (sorry, good ones.)

I have a friend; a friend I still love, a dear soulmate-at-one-point-in-your-life type of friend, and I am sad for the great distance between us. I mean that in all ways possible.
About four months after Elijah died, I heard from this friend. I'll call her AJ.
I had been back from our fleeing-to-maui trip just about long enough for me to have run into every single person I knew in town who asked me where my baby was. And long enough for Supergirl to have begun preschool, where again I dreaded each well-intentioned platitude that was stuttered in my direction. But handled with downward cast eyes and inaudible mutterings grace, in most cases, I would like to believe.
But once home, oh did these platitudes make me seethe. What stupidity! You would not even believe what people say to a bereaved mother. Or maybe you would because I now realize that people only say these things because they are parroting what they think is appropriate to say in the awful situation (which means that death is handled very poorly in our culture, in my opinion), and do so without thinking a whit about it.
But I would spend my time coming up with nasty little comebacks in my head for each of the most abused platitudes, some to be used, but most were not.
For instance, the 'He's in god's arms now' used to set me off on a 'what about MY arms? what about MY EMPTY ARMS' tyrade. And the whole 'God never gives you more than you can handle' - well, 'How the hell do YOU know what I can handle? Did you see me on the edge of the cliff last Tuesday?'
And you wouldn't even believe the crap I endured (involving 'better places' and 'angels') from FAMILY. Well-intentioned, but really. 'Better place'?? 'FOR THE BEST'?? Just because he was 'DIFFERENT'???
Don't get me started. That's another Tuesday - there are many to come.
ANYWAY, this friend, Oh yeah -AJ- called me. Months later. Which is fine. She was a good friend - it would be okay and we would pick up where we left off - just like always, right?
We were talking for a few minutes before I lapsed into my 'can I just tell you what is SO LAME about people' shpiel. A theme that had been batted back and forth between us and repeated for years (nearly decades), but now taking the 'can I tell you what crap I hear about my son's death' twist. A conversation that can never really be anticipated in any relationship, you know? I went on for a while...and a while longer....and longer...and there was very little response on the other end. I felt awkward. I felt lost. Umm..AJ? Don't you think this is crazy? Weird, huh? Can you believe that?
Finally, she responded. Maybe it was a fair response. Maybe I really was going off.
She said, "Well, I just don't really know what to say to you. I mean, you are going off about how stupid things are said to you all the time by other people. And I just don't want to say something stupid. Something that you'll tell someone else is stupid."
I was really surprised.
I tried to come up with a way to tell her that I wasn't talking about my friends, I was talking about other random people. And acquaintances. Why would I talk to my friend about dissing my friend? Or some fumbling thing like that.
But the conversation ended soon after that. I couldn't say anything without her worrying about how I might take her response, so it wasn't really a conversation then.

Ironically, this is a person who demands a very high standard of political-correctness in the people that surround her and work with her.
I haven't really made sense of it all. It just bothered me.

5 comments:

Blaize said...

Hello, I found your blog through greenkitchen, and I like the Grudge Tuesday idea. I am sorry for the lame-itude of all the invariably stupid things people tend to say about children's illnesses and death. I have found that the only thing I can think of to say in most wrenching situations, because it is the only thing that is really REALLY true, is, "I have no idea what you are going through." I have no idea what you went through, or still go through, gwendomama. But I am glad you talk about it.

scribbit said...

After my daughter's funeral my good friend that had been such a support through everything suddenly figured everything was supposed to be okay and that she could leave now. I felt totally abandoned by her and unfortuantely even six years later we aren't friends any more. I wondered if I expected her to understand too much but then I also feel like she didn't care about what was happening to me either. Nobody knows what you're going through until they feel a bit of it themselves. And platitudes are irritating. My personal favorite was, "Well, it's for the best." What???

But there were several people who stand out in my mind for their kindness and compassion. I try not to think of the others and remember those who helped me through.

I always felt like just saying, "I'm sorry for your loss" was the best thing. Short, simple, to the point and expresses sympathy appropriately.

Green Kitchen said...

Blaize and my husband have a thing where they start almost every conversation with, "You know what I hate." They actually have a really fun time doing that. I believe you can say negative things about someone and still like them. Sometimes you just need to vent.

Anonymous said...

I am compelled to write on this one. I always follow your blog and think of that fateful day that we met. People can be horrible unsympathetic/clueless assholes I have found, especially when you need them. The whole "don't talk about it, oh my gosh I don't want to say the wrong thing" idea is so gross. Just be there AJ. Why would she ever worry about what you might say about her comment when you lost your son!!! It could have been any one of us. You are not alone, even if the clueless insensitives never admit this. You are amazing and your writing always makes me smile!!!

Anonymous said...

G. as one of the friends who has stayed (and kept you breathing) I want to tell you how hard it is to know what to do for someone you love who has experienced such a terrible loss. I felt so alone and afraid after Elijah died and he wasn't even my kid. I still cry every time I think of him and your family's loss (as well as the loss that we -the family of friends- experienced). I did know that NO MATTER WHAT I would be the friend to you that I would hope for if one of my beautiful children were to die. AJ (or whatever you called her in this blog) has no children and can't even imagine what the love is like for an alive child not to mention the pain associated with one dying. I think she knows this too and this is what made her afraid to say much of anything. I know what it is to have a grudge. Heck, I am holding onto things that happened twenty years ago! Aj will be there for her if you let her. You two can have your close connection again if you just give her a little more room to be the fucked up product of society that we all are to some degree. I know this because I love you and you are my true friend. We are so lucky to have had eachother through these last 20!!! years and I look forward to the next 20. I am sure that AK or TP or NR -or whatever her initials are- feels the same. She is a keeper and you know it. I Love you my friend. Again, I am so grateful for all of the love that we have shared and to have you in my life to exprience our families together and support eachother through all of the twists that life will deal us. XXOO J