Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dealing with Condolences

So, people are kind. They are sending heartfelt messages, lovely cards, gorgeous flowers. For this I am grateful.  I cannot say I handle the expressions of sympathy with grace. I try. I well up, but the tears don't actually spill. The sympathizers don't feel they've poured salt in an open wound. I think. I hope.

Anyway, before I launch into this next Tale of Wha-huh?, let me please make it clear that I am so very grateful for any/all acknowledgements of my father's passing.

Tonight, I went to a PTA meeting.  What?  You can be cool and an officer on the board of the PTA. At the conclusion of the meeting, the teacher liaison, who happens to have been my daughter's kindergarten teacher, who also happens to be my neighbor (yay, Smalltimore!), approached me.

"I just wanted to say, I'm so sorry," she said, touching my arm.

She said this without preamble, but I wasn't confused. There is only one thing about which people express their sorries to me these days.

"Thank you so much," I respond. What I can't figure out, what makes me wrack my brain, is how she knew my father had passed away.

"[Your daughter] told me about your father, and I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, I met him." Her eyes went all shiny.

It was all I could do not to wrinkle my brow. She met him? When? Since my mother passed away, my father didn't really get out and about.  He came over to my house for some events, though not many.  He came to one of my daughter's dance recitals, but that had nothing to do with school.  So where did my neighbor meet my father?

Oh, wait.

She's thinking of my father-in-law.

This occurs to me about three minutes into our conversation.  What do I do here? Do I tell her she's thinking of the wrong guy? That her near-tears are for a fella that she actually never met?  Or do I just try to keep my father-in-law hidden the next time he visits so that she doesn't think some kind of wraith walks the earth?  Or, just let it go, and let her be weirded out and figure it out for herself if she sees my father-in-law sauntering around our yard in months/years to come?

That last one.  That's what I'm going to do.

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