Saturday, November 21

Notes on a Dinner

I sit and stare, nervously taking a large a sip of wine. I'm concerned I'll run out too quickly, and one of my dinner companions will make a mental note to tell her husband later on in the night: Drinks too much/fast/loudly. 

I need to pee, but I'm hesitant to stand up in case the server comes back and I miss my chance to order another glass of Rioja. Because I'm going to need another glass of Rioja (maybe 3?) to get through the night. Fuck, let's be honest: I'd like to get through the next 5 minutes without either bursting into tears or saying something cruel and irrevocable.

Oh why did I do this? Why didn't I just say no? I'm fine with close friends. Terrible with casual acquaintances. Small talk is my worst enemy. Why did I come?

The server comes again, takes our order. I'm having the special.

I suddenly realize I'm doing plenty of listening, like, all the fucking listening, but not a whole lot of talking. They ask how my son is doing.

FINE! HE'S FINE.

I hate hearing these words, regretting them so fast I internally scold myself. I can't expand on what "fine" actually means tonight, or tomorrow, or ever. I can't share the fact that my son cried for 40 minutes today while I tried to coax him away from the living room, away from his protective bubble of toys, towards the kitchen table so that he could eat dinner. That this morning we took him for an extra vaccination for kids with impaired respiratory function that required two giant needles, given simultaneously, one in each thigh. He gets to repeat this each month, all winter long.

That sounds brutal! Can't they space them out? Do one right after the other? 

I can't tell them how I've been searching for winter boots for a year now, in order to find ones that fit over his leg braces.

Have you tried contacting blank-blank-blank store? A friend of a friend of a friend works there. 

I can share only the most basic and bare-bones facts: he needs major surgery in less than a month to replace rods in his bones that his 4-year old body has now outgrown. I feel somewhat proud that he's outgrown something, like this surgery is exactly the same as if he had outgrown a pair of jeans and we went shopping for new ones. I feel a waft of kinship with my dinner companions. It lasts half a second.

I'm sure he'll be fine. Those doctors do this sort of thing all the time!

I so desperately crave these words. But I'm met with worried faces that scream, I'm glad I'm not you. 

I'm glad I'm not you. 

The pretend conversation in my head is always so much nicer, easier, tidier. I don't have to go home feeling anxious, or fear the shitty platitudes every special-needs mom is forced to swallow: I just don't know how you do it/You're awesome/He's awesome/I can't even imagine/God-blah-blah-blah what you can handle.

I listen, I nod, I'm mostly silent. I secretly count the number of times the conversation winds back to the woes and tribulations of my dinner companions. I hear the problems of their typically-developing children.

Haircuts, potty-training, tricycles, Too Much Netflix, skinned knees, runny noses, trips to Florida, back to school shopping. 

Nobody prepares you for how painful an innocuous list of normal parenting stuff will sound.

Tired? Really? You're tired. Try sleeping on a shitty hospital cot for even ONE night. You wouldn't be able to do it. I just know you couldn't handle it. Not the way I handle it.

I try to remind myself that things are just different for me now. I can't listen to another parent complain about snow or new glasses or ear infections. But I'm so good, an expert really, at placating the gnawing urge to crawl under the table. 

I listen, I nod, I'm mostly silent. And I still hope they invite me again.

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