Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Don't Want To Talk About Knittin' or Do I?

About 7 years ago I joined "The Tuesday Morning Ladies League".  We bowl.  Our season starts in September and the last game is played in May.  
I tried to keep up with it this year, but as Joe's illness became critical, I found it more difficult to make it on Tuesday mornings.   So I resigned.

Yesterday evening I received a phone call from one of my former team mates.  I thought it was kind of an odd conversation.  

Of course, it started out with the standard mutual greetings of,  "Hi, how are you?"  And of course that was followed by the standard mutual responses of, "fine and you?"  

As I began to tell Janet that I was kind of having a tough time, she said something like, uh what have you been knittin'?   Then she began to ramble on about knitting, asking me if I remembered "that hoodie thing" she had been working on. 

As I sat there with what I am sure was puzzled look on my face,  I was confused.  
Why is she asking me about knitting?  
I don't want to talk about knittin'.  I want to talk about how much I am hurting and how much I miss my son.  

Then she switched topics and began to fill me in about what was going on at bowling.  She went on and on about Tina, the woman who replaced me.   "Tina is so much fun."  She really has pepped up the team."   

Huh?  Whaaat?  Really?

Okay, I thought, let me put this woman back on my track.  So, I mentioned how my daughter-in-law is struggling, but managing to....

She broke in with:  "Were there any children involved?"

I thought I didn't hear her correctly.   

"I'm sorry, what did you say?"

She repeated:  "Were there any children involved?"

Still confused, I said, "Do you mean did my son and his wife have children?"  

"Yes," she said.

Huh?  Whaaat?  Really?

So I politely answered,  "Yes they have a 14 month old son."  

"Oh, that's right she said."  I remember something about a baby being involved. 


Okay, either this woman is completely ignorant or she is clearly uncomfortable with the subject of my son's death. 

Anyway, I decided to change the subject and asked how her husband was recuperating from his back surgery.  She then went on and on,  repeating herself several times about how he is  getting around nicely with his walker now.

Then we talked about knitting some more.  

I thanked her for the phone call and promised to stop in to see everyone soon, including Tina. 

Many times during Joe's battle with cancer, I wondered why, when people would call me, they seemed to steer away from asking how I was doing.   They would certainly want to know how Joe was doing, but when I would start to talk about my feelings, they would change the subject.

I mentioned this to my friend Angela during one of our phone conversations.  She admittedly confessed that she was guilty of that.  Later that day, I received the following e-mail from her:

Good Morning Miss Lynda,

I thought about what we talked about and I know why I didn't want to ask you how you are doing about Joey. Here it is, it feels like "I " would be causing you pain to talk about it. I'm not sure if others feel the same. 
Well, Friday was my last day of work so I'm free for lunch. It would have to be a cheap lunch... like McDonald's drive thru but I would love to see you...How's your week looking? Lets get together.

Love you,
 Janet is a mother of a son.  She most certainly can empathize with me.  
And maybe it is too painful for her to imagine what it would feel like if she lost her son. 
In other words, I understand that my pain transfers, even across the phone line. 

So in the words of  the kind and wonderful Ross:

"Her heart was in the right place."

I know that to be true, because even though she was not comfortable, she picked up the phone to call.  And when I think it about it now, it was kind of nice to talk about knittin'.


  1. Lynda - I am a friend of Anne's and have been reading your blog since a few days after Joe's funeral. I think what you experience above is very common. When I talk to people about Joe's death, a number of people just avoid or change the topic. I just think for many people, they were never taught about death and how to handle it. I recently started reading the Tibetan book of living and dying, and even though I don't agree with all of Buddhist philosophy, the book has been fascinating. He talks about how they handle death in Buddhist culture. The book as helped me a lot. I recently told one of my very good friends that I was very sad for weeks and he basically ignored it and moved on to another topic. So, now I have to figure out the best way to approach him to tell him that that isn't ok, to just ignore it.

    I have learned a lot about myself and also my friends that I can count on throughout this experience.

  2. Agreed, the topic is an uncomfortable one for many people. Part of it might well be about your own experience with death.  When my father died very unexpectedly, I was surprised at the outpouring of affection and kindness and I paid attention.  Now, when someone I know loses a parent, I know the things that mattered to me then and I try to make those things happen for the bereaved.  Notes were wonderful, hugs and simple words that let me know others understood my hurt made me feel stronger,  even their presence at his memorial mattered.   I also know that when someone has lost someone very important, they do need to be reminded that they themselves are loved, not just the person who died.  And, like the knitting conversation, life does go on.  It will take a new direction but it does go on.  Hang in there, Lynda.  We are all thinking about you.

  3. Great punchline Lynda and a point well made.  People are hesitant to thrust their way into others' privacy, and fear they are being intrusive.  I like the way you clarified that.

  4. Most people are uncomfortable with the subject of death.  20 years ago in May, my best friends daughter died in a horrible school bus accident.  She was just 12.  She and my daughter were friends, and I identified with her pain, even though I couldn't comprehend it.  I spent a lot of time with her afterward, just sitting and listening.  She said no one wanted to let her talk about Leslie.  She WANTED to talk about her, remember her, but everyone wanted to talk about something else.  Unbelievably,  I didn't talk a whole lot.  I was experiencing some sort of 'survivor's guilt' because I still had my daughter and she didn't.  I didn't know what to say, so I listened.  And it was hard for me to listen because I wanted to cry all the time.   But I seemed to help her.  Because I didn't know what to say.   

  5. I think it's also hard to know what to say if you have no personal experience to draw on. You don't know if the other person wants to talk about it or not

  6. The important thing is you were there and you listened. 

  7. Perhaps it would be best to let your friend know how you felt when he ignored your feelings.  It would give him the opportunity to explain why he did and it might start a meaningful dialogue between the two of you.

    I also have learned so much about myself, especially by exploring my feelings through writing.

  8. I hope that I will always remember my experience and how I felt so that I can extend a kindness to someone else.

    Thank you for your kindness to me. 

  9. This post really touched me. I had a conversation with my mom about this shortly after my dad died. She said "I get upset if no one mentions him, then I get upset if someone mentions him too much." It's hard to know how to deal with the grief of others sometimes. I, like you, finally had to reconcile myself to accepting whatever gestures (however bizarre) that people make - even if it's talking about knitting.
    Your blog is beautiful and touching.

  10. It is sad that more people aren't open to talk/listen when needed.  I know it is hard but just being there to listen means so much.  My situation is not the same but I've noticed that people tend to just glaze over and talk about random things like nothing ever happened.  When they get together I don't hear about it until I see the pictures on facebook and wonder why they didn't call me.  

    Donna (another NaBlopomo member)

  11. Hmm. You taught me something today. Now I'll be a better friend if I can just remember this story when I'm talking to someone in the future who's suffered a loss. Thank you for sharing this story and I'm sorry for your loss.

  12. Wow, you must feel so hurt when you find out - on facebook no less - that you have been left out.
    I wonder if it would be helpful to take one of those people aside and explain how that makes you feel. 

  13. Me too.  I hope to remember to reach out to the next person who needs a kindness. 

  14. Conversations about loss and terminal illness are some of the most difficult to have and I often find myself floundering in those situations. I am always hopeful that the person I am speaking to will realize that my heart truly is in the right place even if my brain and mouth may not be.