Back in the spring of 2010, when Thomas had been gone just over five years, I had a meeting with my very first boss about some freelance work he wanted me to do. Actually, it was with one of his underlings, but on my way into the boardroom we popped into his office so I could say hello.
I hadn't seen Ted in years. The last time I'd had any contact with him was just after Thomas died. Immediately after, actually. When I was about 8 months pregnant he'd contacted me about doing some work for him. I naturally expected I'd be having a live baby in a few weeks (and told him so), so I turned it down. Work was the farthest thing from my mind in those heady pre-baby days.
The next time I contacted Ted was to tell him that, as it turned out, I didn't bring Thomas home after all. His response was lovely. Sweet and sympathetic, with a good dose of concern and disbelief mixed in. I remember him saying that after he'd gotten my e-mail, he and his wife sat on the couch together in shock, talking quietly for hours about life and death and tragedies like mine.
So when I stuck my head into his office that spring morning in 2010, I expected him to see the mother of a dead baby. It's all I could think of--that he hadn't seen or heard from me since that horribly unexpected e-mail five years earlier. In fact, I briefly wondered if he was giving me the work out of pity.
The first words out of his mouth? "So, how's motherhood treating you?"
All he'd remembered was that I'd had a child. He'd forgotten that it died.
He was, of course, horrified when I gently reminded him that motherhood wasn't all that great when all your children were dead. Although I didn't say it exactly that way, of course.
And then I made fun of him for forgetting, because that's what I do. And oh how we laughed.
Okay, we didn't really laugh and my joke probably wasn't all that funny, but I wanted to let him off the gigantic fish hook from which he was dangling as fast as I could.
I think about that day a lot. I should have been upset. I should have been hurt. I should have been desperately angry that he'd forgotten about something so huge that it consumes my life and has changed me forever.
But instead I was relieved. Buoyant, even. Because the fact that he'd forgotten meant that maybe, just maybe, people really do see more than just a bereaved parent when they look at me. Granted, most people don't forget entirely (although my new hairdresser did, asking me again if I had any children at my second appointment after we'd had a very long and thorough conversation about the fact that I don't at my first appointment), but it means that it is possible that I am more than the sum of the sorrows that I carry.
I don't know if Ted remembers any of this. Ha, probably not. But I'm grateful to him just the same for his ability to see and remember me.