After speaking my truth to whomever asked the first few months after Caleb died, I go out of my way to let people live their happy life, oblivious to what some must deal with every day. I try to not see people, and when I must go out, I try to not talk. It is my primary goal when running an errand to not need to interact.
Sometimes the inevitable occurs; a cashier will engage in idle conversation and demand conversation. Thankfully, I can usually say “Howdy” and get out.
I was not always like this. I used to take Caleb to soccer games and I would talk to the parents. Then I then coached soccer for five years with plenty of interaction with the parents. I would take him to cub scouts and then I became the Cub Master. Later, I would take Caleb to Boy Scout meetings, campouts, backpacking, trainings, etc and I talked with whomever was around. Now, I take Madi to Taekwondo and I sit in the car to avoid the interactions while waiting for her to finish.
Despite my best efforts, I encounter those who have no boundary nor sense of personal space.
I was in my car at a dry cleaner’s drive up, and the lady comes out with my shirts, takes my cash, and then, instead of getting my change, she says, “Wow! You have some nice tattoos!”
Okay, so far, this is not too abnormal. People comment on my tattoos often enough, but then she reaches for my arm in a gesture like to turn it and says, “Do they have meaning?”
She is holding my payment in one hand, my arm in the other, and is intently asking a deeply personal question. I am unnerved. I cannot drive off unless I want to search for another convenient place to get my shirts cleaned, and I am in no mood to answer her with the attention it deserves. It has already been an emotional day.
“Yes”, and then I briefly go over each one but without detail. When we get to the end of the other arm, “and this is my son, Caleb”. She sees his face and says, “Oh, is this how he…”, and then her eyes spoke volumes. “It’s really good.” I never said he died, but it became way too obvious to her. She quickly got change, gave it to me, and said goodbye.
Almost every interaction which goes beyond the initial pleasantries ends up awkward for them or me, so I just sit in my car, waiting.