Dropping the Bomb

It seems one of those great facts of life (at least from the oh so experienced and aged near 33 year old perspective) that there is a constant stream of people entering your life. The flip side is that many of those people exit your life too. Sometimes that is just fine. Other times it is a really rather sad thing. There are several people that I have lost touch with that I'm a bit bummed I don't know what is going on in their lives. There are some people that it makes me sad that I don't really know them or know them well anymore. And there are a handful of people that I have serious regrets about having let slip out of touch. I find the last category very hard to re-engage with. The emotional hurdle is great. The internet makes finding people you have lost pretty easy in a lot of cases and I think that is awesome. My experiences and satisfaction with reaching out to old friends or acquaintances is a mixed bag. I have had pleasant exchanges where it is clear I will lose touch with the party again and indefinitely. I have re-engaged with people to the point that I exchange emails with them now periodically. I really like touching base with people from the past. It is an interesting view on how much I have changed and I really have known a lot of genuinely interesting people over the years and generally they are still fun and interesting when I check back in on them.

So the tie-in for Cancer Dad is that having a seriously ill child complicates this process a bit. Sometimes these exchanges can be a bit daunting anyway. "Hi, remember me? We fell out of touch, probably for a reason, but I thought that out of the blue I might drop you an email, tell you a bit about what I've been doing for the last decade, and hope that you might do the same in return." Most of the time the reception is really positive and friendly, but it is still a bit uncomfortable at times. So the fact that I have a kid with cancer is quite understandably a huge part of my life. Now change the above to, ""Hi, remember me? We fell out of touch, probably for a reason, but I thought that out of the blue I might drop you an email and tell you a bit about what I've been doing for the last decade. I got a job, got married, had kids, live in Colorado, and have a kid with a rare and deadly form of cancer. How have you been?" It isn't like I do this a lot, but every six months to a year or so I probably get the itch to touch base with someone. I take the approach of sending a short email hitting the highlights (mostly being married to a wonderful woman and having three incredible kids) on my goings on and leaving out the lowlights. Typically I get a very positive and detailed response in return. I just got one last week. It went something like, "I'm so happy that you have such a wonderful and happy family". Well, now I feel a bit like I lied through omission. I've been through this once before where I followed this formula. At just about this time I dropped the bomb and sent the, "Well, yes, I am happy that I have a wonderful family but I feel a bit odd about having omitted this one little detail...". I never heard back from that guy.

So here is the deal. I really don't care for the most part if the people I'm reaching out to can't or don't want to handle the fact that I have a seriously ill child. I would care if these were the people that I seriously regretted having lost contact with, but I can't work up whatever it is I need to reach out to them anyway. Some of these people were good friends though and I don't feel genuine having any type of relationship with them, even if it is a somewhat superficial email-based relationship, and leaving out something so fundamental and important to my life and who I am. I also don't want to appear like I'm trolling for sympathy or attention.

So, I guess I'll reach out to old lost friends periodically and just have to drop the bomb and see what happens.


JimII said...

You conclude: So, I guess I'll reach out to old lost friends periodically and just have to drop the bomb and see what happens.

For what it's worth, I don't think that is necessary. For that class of people for whom you "seriously regretted having lost contact with" or for your close friends that you have not lost contact with, I think your notion that it is somehow dishonest not to talk about your child's illness is right. However, I don't think it is a problem to not bring it up for those less close to you. I think it is like telling the truth. There is an understanding that honesty is the best policy, but sometimes that is wrong.

Now, this is all predicated on what I read as your feeling obligated to talk about your son to these people. If it just comes out, because it is a part of your life, that is different. For instance, you will know everything about me if you've had lunch with me for a week. It's just who I am. Every once in a while, I'll know someone for like a month and he or she will say, "Oh, really, I didn't know you were in the Navy." It is a shocking occurrence when it happens because most people I've known a month know my name, rank, serial number, home port, most embarrassing and most proud moments in the Navy, as well as comparable information for every other time period.

I tried to break that mold when I worked as a contractor in up state New York. I frequented a coffee shop where I met a lot of people. I did my best to not mention where I worked or any details about myself. I actually had really pleasant interactions with them. I think you can have legitimate relationships that don't probe every aspect of your life.

As for the concern that people will be shocked to find out they'd been in email conversation with you for several months and this topic never came up, who cares. Maybe that one guy would then stop writing. I'm sure most people would react with the stunned, helpless uncertainty you've learned how to cope with. No harm no foul, I say.

Cool Hand Luke said...

I think you are absolutely right, Jim. I don't have to let this dominate everything. I tend to choose to, but I can also choose not to. Thanks.