We set out with a wagon, 2 strollers, and a bike, ridden by 2 preschoolers, 4 toddlers, and a newborn. We had full stomachs and were looking forward to a fall after-dinner stroll.
Kids got in and out of the wagon, one stroller was vacated fairly quickly, and the cyclist fell a few times. We chatted and laughed and breathed the autumn air deeply as we walked through the streets my in-laws know so well.
I was doing okay until we reached a neighbor’s house. She knows my in-laws well and stopped us to talk for a moment. After a few moments, her attention landed on Mason.
“And where are yours?”
Mason pointed to our three kids and introduced them briefly. She looked at him with a question in her eyes and asked, “Is that it?”
Mason, not knowing how else to respond, replied, “This is it.”
She couldn’t seem to accept that and asked again, “I really thought you had more kids. This is it?”
I was frozen.
I had no clue what to say, and I felt incapable of telling her the truth. I yearned for someone to tell her what had happened, but I couldn’t.
Mason responded again, and I tried to get out of there as quickly as I could. I spent much of the rest of the walk trying not to cry and feeling so alone.
The good news is that this is not the end.
I later found out that my dear mother-in-law reminded her neighbor of our situation after I was out of earshot. This neighbor felt so bad for her ill-timed questions, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt gratitude towards her and her questioning.
I’d like to think she knew- that she saw our family and knew that someone was missing. Even if she didn’t remember what had happened, something told her that the way our family appeared wasn’t the whole truth.
One of my fears is that I will be the last one carrying Joseph’s memory- that I am even now the only one that sees the gaping hole he left.
It means so much to me to think that someone else saw that hole too.