You know those conversations that just stick with you? The ones that wake you at 3 in the morning? I feel like the queen of those sometimes. You know, guys, like when you ask if a woman is pregnant, but she isn’t? I’ve gotten much better about it over the years, learning to bite my tongue and think before I speak.
I have a bad habit of saying, “you, too.” It’s almost a reflex, and my guess is it comes from a mostly Southern upbringing where manners matter most. “I hope your dog enjoys his new toy,” says the lady at the pet store. “You, too,” I quip back. I mean, I guess she could have a dog who just got a toy, but one shouldn’t assume.
Once, a friend was praised for making a gutsy life move to another town, and I reacted with, “So what? I did that before.” Why would I say that? I was excited for her. I knew how hard it was to pick everything up and move away, but I muttered those negative words and haven’t forgotten it. Guilty pangs, 3 a.m.
Not all memorable conversations are bad, though. One of the hardest I’ve had in my life has also become one of the most important. When my mom was very sick, weeks from dying, her doctor wasn’t quite as forthcoming as he needed to be. He was a relatively good physician, but his bedside manner left something to be desired. Although he told her they’d run out of treatment options, she didn’t understand. She desperately wanted to attend my brother’s wedding.
We had to tell her she wouldn’t. My brother and I sat at the foot of her bed and explained that her body had become too weak to tolerate the chemo needed to cure her. She cried. We cried. It was hard. It was worse than that, really. She asked about other curative measures her doctor previously mentioned, and we held her hand and quietly told her, no, not those either.
Out of that conversation came a beautiful moment. A soft light in an otherwise dark room. Mom smiled. She relaxed. She looked at me and said, “thank you.”
She was relieved to know the truth. After that, she napped, and a little later she rode in an ambulance to the hospice facility where, a week later, she’d take her last breath.
If having that as one of the most important conversations in my life sounds morbid, so be it, but it was just that. It was lovely and profound. Knowing she trusted us as much as she did, that life had come full circle, with her children taking care of her, mattered the most.
There are so many unfinished conversations, ruined without a chance to fully explain ourselves. We wonder if we should go back, or have faith that the universe will unfold as it should. The finished ones might not’ve gone how we’d hoped. I’ve shaken my head and rolled my eyes at myself more times than I care to think about. Remember, I’m trying to avoid those 3 a.m. OMG wake-ups. Others are perfectly imperfect, and the rest fall somewhere in the middle of all that, but if there’s one thing to remember from all this, y’all: never, ever ask a woman if she is pregnant, unless you can see the baby coming out of her.