At first the question made my heart pound so furiously that I couldn't get an answer out. Later on, I was adamant about saying I had had two sons and explaining right up front that one was dead. Nowadays, I choose my answer depending on who is asking. I don't want people with young children or planning to have children to hear my sad story. No one should have to go where I've been unwittingly. I believe my blurting out my story in response to a simple, friendly question gives out way too much information. Leaving Paul out makes me feel guilty, but way less guilty than making people asking innocent questions feel bad.
Wrong? Right? Who knows?
The Dreaded Question
It happens again like so many times before.
I’m at my sister’s house,
talking to her neighbor
someone I’ve just met
and she asks me the dreaded question
one that I’m avoiding
by talking about what a great day
this has been in Portland
and isn’t my sister’s garden just beautiful
and what do you do for a living
and where are you from.
And there it is,
after I’ve tossed the salad greens
put the tomatoes in the bowl
and sliced in the avocado
“How many children do you have?” she asks.
And never missing a beat
I say, I had two
but now, only one.
My oldest son died.
Then I leave to get myself together
and wonder what she and my sister are saying
while I am lying down in my room.