Monday, June 22, 2009

Communication, or "I SAID, the baby died"

I'm listing this as an "overheard" because I am positive that there are some people who will be talking about overhearing this exchange this weekend...

Don has been telling me for several weeks that I need to get a pedicure.


My feet got so crazy swollen and dry during the last couple of months of my pregnancy, in addition to the fact that my brother and I both have hardcore outdoor-feet. I could walk on pine cones and feel no pain as a kid. Anyway, lotion wasn't helping at all and Don was threatening to break out an industrial sander so I wanted to go get a pedicure. I got Mom, Melissa, and Paige and off we went.

The place was packed-- it was about 96 degrees outside on Saturday, so I guess that's pedicure weather. Sliding into the pedicure throne, I saw my 19 year old pedicure girl eyeing Wanda curiously.

I felt the need to explain.

"Um, I just had surgery. This is just a you know, a thing..." and let my voice trail off. Hopefully my response to her questioning look was awkward enough to help disuade further questioning.

She nodded.

"Oh, you have surgery? What you have?"

This is where I should have just made something up. Look, I don't mind talking about Ben, but the reality is, saying "my baby died" is an unecessary bummer that people are NOT expecting when they ask me about what I had surgery for (which is why I need to say that I had an appendectomy or something in the future). There's no casual way to say it ("But it's okay! We're over it now!") and there's no easy response ("Okay, well... good luck with that").

But we had something worse than social ettiquette between us.

Serious language barrier.

So, looking around, I saw that we now had the attention of two or three of the people sitting close by at the manicure desks. Openly looking at us, they were waiting for my response. Hm. Quietly and quickly, I said, "Um, it was a C-section" --and really wanting to stop her from her embarrassing next question, I quickly tagged that with "and the baby passed away."

I know that translators hate working with me-- when I had to speak in YWAM with a translator, I was always told that I had to slow down for real. I talk FAST. I was counting on the girl being uncomfortable with asking me to repeat myself, nodding at me and smiling.

But no.

She waited a couple of minutes, working away on my tough-as-nails feet, humming quietly to herself. She looked up at me and asked,

"So, what kind of baby you have?"

Um. Dead?

"Um, it was a boy. He passed away."

Smile, nod, keep scraping away on feet.

"How your baby?" This was starting to be funny.

I glanced over at Paige, who was trying not to laugh, and suddenly it was hysterical. Again, I quietly said, "He passed away" and did not look up at the faces watching us. I don't know why I wasn't thinking about the fact that my phrase was not translating to this young Vietnamese woman, or if it did, she simply could not hear me. But she wasn't getting it and I was about to start laughing. I looked at Paige and she leaned down toward the girl and said, like she was talking to a 98 year old granny,

"She SAID, the baby died."

Let me just tell you about the quietest, best pedicure ever.


Caroline said...

Sarah Grace walks into all pedicure places and says, "What color you have??" as loud as she can. She thinks that is the appropriate greeting since the ladies always say that to her. Too bad she is five.

Samantha said...

i really, really want to get a pedicure with that kid, just to witness that :)

mary said...

Since you shared this, I will tell you that I was getting a pedicure when I got the news of your loss via my iphone email. I started crying and the sweet ladies gathered around me and were very comforting, they ask me if you knew God. I said yes. Everytime I go in there now they ask about you. The nail shop is called Christian Nails, they play praise music and you get a discount if you are a pastors wife. I love you. mary peters

Samantha said...

oh wow!! where is that shop??

Michelle said...

I'm new to your blog and found it via a link from my friend Randy. I also lost my daughter, our second child. It was at 20 weeks, but I still have had to have conversations with people like this one.

Susan Boone said...

Oh Sam...I've had a few moments like this one lately too. Remind me to tell you about my fantastic experience at the State Vital Records Office. I thought about you so much this past week...hope all is well, friend.

Cares said...

that's my kind of blog, kid

Samantha said...

michelle and susan-- i imagine we'll run into this often...susan, i have to hear that story-- i have a feeling i'll be making a trip to a similar dept this week. i'll email you with a question later on. i thought of you often while you were on vacation-- your pics are beautiful.

and carey? best compliment i've ever received.

Melissa said...

Sam, you manage to create one of my favorite emotions of all time. Gut-busting laughter through the heart-wrenching tears. Just want you to know that you are one of the strongest, funniest, bravest women I know. Love you!

Sherri said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. You have an incredible talent for writing, and let me say that your words are helping me sift through some of my grief. I had to tell you my laughable so sad it's funny story...
We were in the mall a couple of days after we lost our baby girl, just to get out, and to buy a pair of tights for our two year old for the memorial service. It was just before Christmas so we took Jenna over to see Santa.. this is how it went:
Santa-"Hello little girl. What would you like for Christmas?"
J- "A baby" (meaning a dolly)
S- "Perhaps you would like a baby sister! Maybe Mommy and Daddy could get you one of those!"
I wished the floor of the mall could swallow me right then and there! Poor Santa didn't have a clue.
Anyway, I can laugh about the absurdity of it now. Thanks for letting me share.

Samantha said...

Sherri, that is a great, great story. Oh my gosh. I mean, we just have NO idea what people are walking through all day long... Thank you for sharing that with us and bless you as you walk this path... My prayer is that you'll find more and more laughter as He heals your heart. Bless you bless youbless you!