When you run into the plumber you haven’t seen in two years and you have to explain your family, and the interaction is questionable

Yesterday was New Year’s Day, and we went to the church we’ve been visiting, but we were 45 minutes late (by accident, but really, it was kind of a blessing), and then Joel fell asleep, and we wanted him to keep napping, so we drove through a buffalo farm, and there was a baby buffalo breastfeeding, so it kind of reminded me of myself, and the buffalo farm involved narrow roads with huge drop offs a la Colorado, except the cliffs were markedly less high (like feet versus thousands of feet), so I feared Mark would drive off the road, so I texted Mark’s sister’s husband, a paramedic-in-training who regularly sees fatal crashes, and asked, “Would you ever trust Mark to drive you through Colorado?” And he was like, “Is there a parachute in the car?” And I was like, “Oh, shit.”

And then we got home, and we were playing with Joel, enamored that he was sitting unassisted pretty damn competently, when we heard a knock on the door. So, of course, Howie assumed it was Fedex and went berserk, and I assumed we were about to be victims of an armed robbery. But Mark went to answer the door anyway, because he doesn’t consider it masculine to play into my armed robbery fear.

And in the door waltzed our plumber, and this didn’t alleviate my fears one bit, because the guy who robbed us in my childhood was one of our former contractors. So I started to scold Mark in my mind, “Like you dumb f*#%. You let him in. Our new security system won’t help us now.” (For Christmas, we purchased ourselves a security system, because every time I’m home alone with Joel I feel extra vulnerable – like what if someone comes in and I’m nursing him and I can’t fight? And also, I’m prone to periods of involuntary loss of consciousness (seizures), so it may be advisable for me to wear one of those necklaces, much like an elderly person on the brink of moving into assisted living facility might wear, so if I feel so inclined I can quickly hit the button to phone the authorities. An added bonus of this system is that any time a door is opened, it shouts which door over the speakers like, “LAUNDRY ROOM DOOR OPEN!!!” which seems like a crucial feature.)

But it seemed Mr. Plumber’s visit was actually expected, so Mark walked him downstairs so they could attempt to locate a shower drain pipe that was apparently inadvertently buried under our concrete floor. (Mark has taken the positive news related to my career as an invitation to plan the spending of my bonus as well as my next six month’s income. He wants to finish our basement. But I remind him that my boss’s increased generosity in regards to my flexibility guarantees neither my success nor my continued employment.)

After about 15 minutes, Mark and Mr. Plumber returned to our living room, where I continued to play with Joel, and Mr. Plumber’s attention, of course, turned to us, and a feeling of dread washed over me, as I contemplated what it might mean to encounter someone for the first time in two point five years – someone who, until now, didn’t know about Joel, let alone Matthew.

So our conversation proceeded much like this…

Mr. Plumber – So what’s his name?

Me – Joel.

Mr. Plumber – How old?

Me – 5 months.

Mr. Plumber – I have five grandchildren. Let’s see – one is five, one is four, one is three, one is 11 months, and one of them is arriving on January 16. And they’re all boys!

Me – Oh, how great… That’s so neat…

Mr. Plumber – Yeah! So how’s he sleeping?

Me – Pretty well…

Mr. Plumber – Life changes a lot, doesn’t it?

Me – Yep.

Mr. Plumber – Like your life has changed so much, right?

Me – Yep. So much…

(Mark and I exchange knowing glances.)

Mark – Yeah… Life has changed more than we could have ever imagined… Joel is actually our second child… Our first child, Matthew, died unexpectedly, in July of 2015…

Mr. Plumber – Oh, unexpectedly? So he died of SIDS?

Me – No, he died during week 33 of my pregnancy. I went to the hospital one day, and for 13 hours they assured me he would be fine, but his heartbeat eventually flat-lined, and they performed an emergency C-section, and he was born alive, but they couldn’t bring him back…

Mr. Plumber – I’m sorry. How awful. People think I’m this tough guy… My wife’s cousin’s baby died from SIDS, and I couldn’t even enter the funeral home. I just couldn’t do it. I mean, I have five children. I kept thinking that what if… It’s just too painful. So… I mean… I know how you feel…

(We stand there, open-mouthed, speechless, as Mr. Plumber eventually changes the subject, before Mr. Plumber finally leaves.)


And later I stewed so much over this conversation for so many reasons, but mostly just for two…

And before I list said reasons, I’ll pause to address those thinking, “She brings it on herself by telling everyone her child died.” To those thinking this, I suggest you reserve judgment and first try to imagine losing your child and then having to pretend he never existed for the sake of others’ comfort. It only hurts me, and it isn’t worth it, so I don’t do it.

So back to why I was stewing…

First, how nice must it be to have the choice to “not enter the funeral home because it’s too painful for you to imagine a similar tragedy happening to you.” How fucking nice. But some aren’t so lucky – not everyone gets this choice. And how selfish this is – like this person couldn’t put his hypothetical fear aside for like 20 minutes to support someone who’s completely shattered because she is ACTUALLY living through the unimaginable? And why he would tell us, people who’ve been through something similar, this story, I’m not sure, though I’m guessing it had to do with the fact that he, and most, are just so stinking awkward.

Second, I’ve noticed lately that I’m still super enraged and bitter (shocker!) about not only losing Matthew but also that something THIS awful (like one of the worst things in the world) happened to me, to my family, to us. Sure, I have a lot to be thankful for, and I am thankful, but anytime I become too thankful, I put myself in check, reminding myself, “Christine, one of your children is dead.”

And it’s true, no matter how “good” life becomes, I’ve still been through one of the worst things – something that cannot be undone and is “too painful for some to imagine.” (Side note – I very appreciate those why try, and there are some who do.) And yes, there are other horrific things, even worse things (like losing your entire family or being kidnapped by ISIS… maybe…), but losing a child ranks up there with the very worst of it.

And I resent it. 18 months later, I’m still constantly asking, “Why me? Why us? Why my Matthew?” And though I realize this isn’t necessarily productive, I can’t help but do it. And also, though I’m aware of the, “Why not me?” counterargument, this isn’t helping me. Not in the slightest.

And I know there are no answers as to why. And there will never be any answers. And I’ll have to stop engaging in this line of thinking at some point in time, or at least attempt to engage in it less frequently.

But right now, I’m just not there yet. I’m still screaming, “Why me?!?!” I resent being the one whose baby died, the one who experienced the unimaginable, the one who has to live a (presumably) long life without one of her children.

I still walk around cursing the unfairness of it all, and conversations like the one I had with Mr. Plumber only make me curse it more.

16 thoughts on “When you run into the plumber you haven’t seen in two years and you have to explain your family, and the interaction is questionable

  1. After 18 months I think and feel the exact same way. Why me? Why my baby? Why does everyone else have ALL their six kids? I feel the anger and resentment still. So many things still really bother me. So many damn annoying conversations with people. I can barely look at a certain couple at church anymore. Church is actually REALLY painful for me. All the damn families, kids and babies. Anyway, this family in particular bothers me. It’s a toddler girl and a baby brother. That’s supposed to be MY family. Instead my baby boy is buried in the cold ground decaying. It BURNS. Thank you for sharing all of this. I feel less alone. Take care.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I swear people hear bad news and their brains malfunction. It’s like they search for any random piece of information to be able to relate to you, when all reality, we don’t want to be related to by someone who lost their best friends second cousins grandmas kid. Also, if anyone says you bring it on yourself by telling people that Matthew died, they can (not so) kindly fuck themselves. He is your son, and I believe that you should tell ANYONE you damn well please about him. ((HUGS))

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I always love your comments! Their brains do totally malfunction, and I’ve learned to just see the ridiculousness of it rather than get super heated all of the time… But still, it is annoying as f#ck sometimes. xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I honestly can’t think of something to say that won’t sound patronising or off-hand in a comments sections. You have my deepest sympathies for your loss.
    I agree with Randi somewhat, I know that personally when I’m speaking to someone and they’ve suffered a huge loss it is like my brain malfunctioned. A few months ago a friend’s step-mother called to tell me that he had passed away and it was literally like my brain went blank. I was just sat in the car on my driveway staring at my phone [it was on hands free], trying to work out what I could say to her in that situation. It’s so huge and so terrible that it swallows up the words.
    In the end grief is very personal.
    I cannot compare any of the loss in my life to what your going through. I can just say that I hope it gets easier for you, and that you eventually find some form of closure.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hugs. You do not bring it on yourself when you talk about Matthew. Most people seem incapable of thinking before they speak, and just say something to comfort themselves. Their comfort doesn’t matter, if you want to talk about Matthew then talk about him. ❤

    Have you read the book Three Minus One? It is a compilation of stories by parents who have lost a child. There is one essay by a man who didn't lost a child, but his best friend did. And he talked about how often he heard people tell his friend "I can't imagine…". He said it wasn't that people couldn't imagine, it's that they didn't want to open themselves to that pain. Because even imagining the death of your child for 5 minutes is more pain than most want to think about.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have read the book Three Minus One in my early days of grief. So many touching pieces in that book. I’ll have to go back and look for that piece though, because I don’t remember it off the top of my head, which isn’t surprising, because I was in a major fog when I read it, obvy!


  5. I’ve gone psycho martyr on it all, (defense mechanism I assume.) and have myself convinced there are certain number of losses in life, not necessarily predetermined, but just not EVERYONE can live, right? So maybe, the fact that I’ve lost 7, means like, my sister gets to keep all hers. Or J’s cousins don’t have to go through this. This is the worst thing I’ve ever gone through, but maybe because I did, someone else doesn’t have to. Again, ridiculous, I TOYALLY know, but whatever gets me out of bed right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely whatever gets you out of bed. I’ve had the martyr thoughts myself… Problem is, they actually make me even more angry. Like why couldn’t someone have been the martyr for me? I know… Selfish. But I can’t help it… I totally resent feeling like I’ve taken the statistical hit for everyone I know!


      1. Haha! I get that, maybe you just need more people you are very close with breeding, which I don’t actually recommend. This is making more sense now, so instead of cutting off all contact with my sisters and husbands cousins and drinking vodka for breakfast because dear god other people with babies are HARD I’m just like you’re welcome bitches, be grateful. 😂😂😂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I lost my 24 year old son in a car accident 14 months on the 10th. My family had Christmas at my MIL house. We have a large family on my husband’s side with 11 grandchildren counting my son. I couldn’t go, I just couldn’t see the 10 of them without breaking down. They posted multiple pictures on Facebook of family together and I haven’t been able to look at any of them because they all contain the grandkids. I know that it was very selfish of me for not going, but I told my husband I can’t see all the grandkids together now and my son not there. I am still in the why us stage as well. I think some of my family and friends wish I would move on and be at peace with my loss, no one knows unless you are a mother who has lost a child no matter the age, the soul aching pain you live with everyday of your life. I personally was afraid of death before my son left this world unexpectedly, (I have two other children to live for), now, I can’t wait for the day I meet him at the Gate to give him a hug and tell him I will never let go of him again.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your reply. I felt guilty for a while about not going but I had to do what was best for me and if my family can’t understand that, then I am not the one to explain it to them. I have always been one to be there even when I didn’t really want to be, this year, I decided to do what I felt was right for me. My Krissie (emotional support dog) and I hung out, binged on Netflix, and stayed in bed. (she is deathly afraid of fireworks so my bedroom was the furthermost from them…:)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think that sounds amazing ❤ If my daughters death hadn't been almost a year out from Christmas, I wouldn't have gone to ours. I have a 5 year old son who made it enjoyable, but a grieving heart needs to do what it needs to do. And I think it's great that you took care of YOU. It's a hard thing to do especially after you lose someone so important to the fiber of your being. More ((hugs)) cus there are never enough 🙂


    1. I am so sorry for your devastating loss of your son. It is totally understandable why you wouldn’t be able to go see the grandchildren when your precious son is missing. Everything about the world seems so incredibly wrong when your child is gone, no matter their age. It’s unfathomable to me that anyone would consider you selfish or think that you should have “moved on.” I get this a lot, and sometimes I assume it’s because Matthew was a baby so no one really got to “know him,” but it seems our culture pushes everyone to “move on” no matter who they’ve lost, and I just don’t get it. I wouldn’t have been able to go either. I’m just so very sorry you’re in this position and had to endure yet another holiday without your son. Huge hugs to you. xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

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