Made Me Upset

It started as an innocuous conversation, as so many do.

A winding road through the hills of Wisconsin, watercolor illustration
Image created via Midjourney // Anna Burgess Yang

It started as an innocuous conversation, as so many do. I was in my old stomping grounds, my hometown. I stopped by the bank where I used to work for a brief visit.  I hadn’t worked there in 10 years, but the bank president and IT guy were there, both of whom I had known well.

It started out as complimentary.  They both marveled at how little I had aged in 10 years.  It turned to stories and reminiscing about over a decade ago and before, when I had worked there.

It was supposed to be a compliment. The bank president said, “I never found another employee like you.”  I joked back “Well, there is only one of me.”  Then he said “Well, you haven’t had a daughter yet. So it’s all on you.”

I completely froze.

What was I supposed to say?  “I just scattered my daughter’s ashes this weekend and did the same thing 8 months ago with my other daughter”?  Or “My daughter was stillborn”?  I said nothing. I inhaled deeply.  He will never know the searing effect of those words.

I told Ger about it, on our way to dinner to meet some customers of mine. I entertain customers so rarely in person. I wanted him to be aware of how much I had been affected by the comment, and that I was dragging him to dinner because I thought I needed the extra support.  

On the way home, after dinner, he made a comment that hurt my feelings.  I reminded him of our earlier discussion.  How I had forewarned him, going into the evening, of how much I had been affected by the comment of my former boss.  How I had been asking, however implicitly, for understanding.

I started to cry, and I couldn’t stop.  It was one more thing, one more instance where I felt alone in grieving.  Ger was not expecting me to be so impacted, but I was. The combination of the careless comments and the emotional weekend overwhelmed me.

I fell into fitful dreams. In one, I couldn’t find my younger son. I woke up in a panic until I realized they were both sleeping soundly in the room next to me.

My eyes are red and my tears are thick.