"How do you wish for people to respond to you, when they hear your story? I mean, crying seems a little over the top every time, but it's hard to know what to do or what to say."
"I don't mind if someone else is crying for our family. In fact, I'm pretty cried out. I can't cry as often as I once did, and sometimes I wish I could. There is a beautiful, cleansing release that comes with a flood of tears, and I wish for that on many days. So when I can't, it blesses me that someone else will. They usually apologize, as if they're sorry for crying if I'm not. But they don't need to apologize. It really truly blesses me."
Really, any authentic response blesses me. Anything that someone truly means, when they don't know what else to say. Because I don't know what to say most of the time, either.
I just hope they aren't surprised if my emotions don't mirror theirs. Someone's response upon first hearing my story might not match the one I carry in my heart, this many months later. It's impossible to cry all the time, but people don't know what to do with a laughing widow, or even one who is occasionally willing to talk.
Two girlfriends joined me on the day I got my tattoo. Jen has two boys, Melissa has two boys, I have two boys. The tattoo artist, so intricately decorated that he's running out of canvas on his body, has one little girl. We talked about the differences between boys and girls, the basic polarizations.
He said, "You know, you moms have it made with those boys. When he grows up, you still only have to worry about where his one penis goes. When my girl grows up, I have to worry about every penis in the neighborhood."
A fair and funny assertion from a man open to the truth that his three-year-old will one day be a beautiful woman with her own sex drive.
Then he said, "So, are you three each happily married?"
And there it was: the tangible pause that follows a posed question that my protective girls aren't sure how I want to answer.
"I'm a widow, actually."
He lifted his tattoo iron from the inside of my forearm, and he looked me in the eye.
"Dude. For real?"
"Woah, man. Dude. That's f*cked."
Now that is authenticity.
I said, "Yeah, it is."
"I mean, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I said that. But, seriously? That sh*t is f*cked."
Yeah, it is.
And his was perhaps my favorite response ever.