As I entered the hospital to go to the baby group today, I saw a woman I know at the information desk. We used to be in a book group together, but we both stopped going a few years ago. I had been surprised to see her there when I brought Henry to the group the year before last. I hadn't seen her since.
I introduced her to Kathleen. She said how cute she is, commented on her hair. “And how’s your son.”
Deep breath. “He passed away. Just over a year ago.”
She expressed her sympathy. I nodded, said thank you, and continued on, deflated.
We were introducing ourselves and our babies. It was second baby to my left. “And this is Henry.” Henry. I kept staring at this other mama’s Henry, this Henry who was not my Henry, and tried not to cry. Later as we were all getting ready to leave. I told her I loved the name, that I had a son Henry. Kathleen started screaming mid-sentence, so she had to ask if she heard me right. “Did you say you have an older son Henry?” Have, had. I do have a son, but I don’t have him here, so can I say I have him or should it be had? “Yes. he died just over a year ago.” It was awkward, but I had to say something. That name. My Henry. I miss him.
And now? I’m just tired. I always start at hearing his name. I probably would have handled it better if I hadn’t been blindsided on the way in. Maybe I should be glad that somebody remembered Henry and asked about him. I recognize that as a good thing, but every time I have to say my son died, I feel like I die a little too. And it’s been over a year. I’m prepared for “how many kids do you have” to be a hard question. I know that as I talk about mothering Kathleen, I inevitably refer to Henry and end up talking about him. I know I will meet many people who have no idea that I have a son, that Kathleen is my second child, unless I tell them. But it’s been over a year. How many more people are there who know I had a baby boy named Henry, but don’t know that he died?
These encounters make me weary.