Sunday, June 29, 2014

The shadow child

Dh's cousin hosted a big family gathering over the weekend, and we had a lovely time. Lots of little kids running around, a new baby to ooh and ahh over. While such a gathering at one time would have been agonizing for me, I took it all in stride, didn't even give it much thought, really. Progress?

Until.

A., the tall, good-looking teenaged nephew of our hostess (dh's cousin's wife) was there -- and it was his 16th birthday. He'd already been to get his driver's learning permit, and there was much ado being made over him.

I was sitting at a table with my sister-in-law and another of dh's cousins, and they were remarking on how quickly all the kids were growing up. They wondered aloud about another cousin's son, J., and how old he was. They called him over and asked, and he said he would be 16 this fall. 

That set them off:  wow, Grade 11 this fall!! A driver's license!!  Off to university soon!!

I just sat there silently, with a half-smile frozen on my face. I knew very well, all too well, how old J. was. His mom, and A.'s mom and I were all pregnant together at our host & hostess's engagement party, 16 years ago this spring/summer.

Of course, I know how old Katie would be soon -- it's not like I'd forgotten.  But it was still jarring to hear others talking about these boys like that -- to realize all over again what I am missing out on -- and to realize for the umpteenth time that nobody else will ever, ever remember my daughter the way that I will. They know that I was pregnant, that I lost the baby -- but to them, she will only ever be a sad, hazy, shadowy memory of what might have been. The fine details, the fact that my little girl would be the contemporary of these two boys -- also be in high school and getting her driver's license and thinking about university -- are obviously lost on them.  

(I do think that J's mother remembers, since we were pregnant at the same time -- and my baby died, while hers lived. But she wasn't at the table with us then.) 

I stood up and offered to take everyone's paper plates to the garbage, and asked did anyone want anything else to drink, and that changed the subject, thankfully.

It didn't ruin the entire evening for me (as it once surely would have).  But it did sting.

7 comments:

Mrs. Spit said...

Ohh. Yes. This. It hurts less, but that sting.

Valery said...

It is hard work keeping a little one in your memory. And can be so lonely at times.
I'm sorry your table didn't include Katie in the conversation as one of the cousins...

Klara said...

dear Loribeth,
warm hugs from across the Atlantic.
Klara

Mali said...

Stings are nasty - a shock when we don't quite expect one, a sharp pain. And the memory of that sharp pain lingers, even after the pain has receded.

Sending hugs too.

Amel said...

(((HUGS))) Agree that the sting is nasty...

Illanare said...

Sending hugs - that was a nasty sting.

Anonymous said...

This broke my heart. I've been reading your blog for a long time and rarely comment. You are a wonderful mother. Katie is lucky to have you.