Is the truth always necessary – sometimes even mean? Have you ever wished you had lied?
Last night I found myself wishing I could swallow the words that were pouring out of my mouth.
It all started with a fun dinner with one of my oldest and best friends (Hi Maura). We make an effort to get together every couple of months, and our nights are always filled with stories of life now mixed with ridiculous anecdotes of our high-school days. With Maura, I am just Jess. Same girl that she met 32 years ago. It’s awesome.
We had a great cuban meal and our usual share of Sauvignon Blanc, before we hugged goodbye and got into our separate Ubers.
I climbed into the Toyota Highlander in a great mood and was delighted to be greeted with a driver who had a warm smile and bottle of water for me. Before long, we were busy chatting. I love talking with strangers. Everyone has a story, and if you’re willing to dig a little, fascinating tales are plentiful.
It took a little while – it usually does for guys – but finally my driver, Mohammad, started talking. He immigrated to The States as a young adult, and most of his family is either still in India or in Australia (which I must get to soon – he swears it’s “beyond beautiful)”. He misses his extended family, but feels like it’s too late to make another big move. He’s married to the love of his life (sweet story) and has two girls who he’s finally getting to spend time with now because he’s in-between steady work. Apparently, the restaurant chain he was managing did not appreciate the month he took off while his oldest daughter was recovering from a terrible accident.
At this point in his story, Mohammad got upset and I didn’t get all the details, only that his daughter suffered two very serious leg factors that required several surgeries and 14 days in the hospital. It was a horrible time and losing his job has put a great deal of stress on his family, but he is trying to focus on how wonderful it’s been to spend time with his girls, “I’ve gone from working 13 hour days/7 days a week and only seeing my daughters when they are sleeping, to picking them up at school and cooking dinner with them. The accident was horrible, but I’ve gained a new perspective and real appreciation for what’s really important. I need to find steady work soon, but I won’t go back to my old schedule. I would miss having time with my girls.”
We were stuck on the Pulaski Skyway, when Mohammad turned around and thanked me for listening to his story. Then he asked, “So what about you? Do you have any kids?”
I tried to have him continue sharing, but he insisted on hearing a little about me, so I kept it short and sweet, “I have two kids. My son is 18 and my daughter is 16. Great kids.”
He didn’t miss a beat, “Wow! Where’s your 18-year-old headed this year?”
It would have been so much easier if I had just said that my son was taking some time to find himself (not really a lie) or made up some sort of story. Mohammad had just opened up (something I’m guessing he doesn’t do often). I knew what was going to happen if I shared too much about our family. It makes people feel uncomfortable. Especially if they have just shared a “dark” moment. As if there is some sort of hierarchy of disasters and you aren’t allowed to complain if your’s doesn’t rank in the top ten.
The problem is that I feel bad about lying – as if I am ashamed of who Jack is and what his life looks like. A huge part of who I am is a mom. A mother of a beautiful, brilliant daughter who is going to do amazing things and the mother of a handsome, funny, son who lights up a room with his smile, but can’t speak or take care of himself. How can I leave out the truth?
I tried for a quick soundbite.
“My son has some disabilities. He will stay at his high school for a few more years. College won’t be part of his future . . . but he’s great. Super happy!”
The silence that swept through the Toyota Highlander was painful as this guy tried to find the right words. I could see that he was trying to figure out what to do next, took a deep breath and asked for details. And, he didn’t give up after my simple explanation of “My son has a rare disease that left him with some challenges.”
“How old was your son when he got sick?”
“What was the treatment?”
“How long was he is the hospital?”
“Can he walk/talk/care for himself?”
I gave Mohammad the cliff notes of our journey, ending every sentence with, “ . . . but he is doing GREAT! Jack is super happy and my daughter, Anna, is doing great too!”
I felt terrible. I could see Mohammad’s eyes in the rearview mirror as he heard each answer. He was lovely and kept saying all the “right things”, but I couldn’t help but feel like I had ruined his moment of reflection. The rest of the drive home was awkward as I wished I could take back the truth. When we pulled up to my house, we were both relieved that the trip was over.
“Bye. Thanks for the ride and good luck with the job search. And, enjoy every second with your girls!”
“Bye. I will be praying for your son and your whole family.” – I wonder how many people hear THAT from their Uber driver.
Why hadn’t I just said that Jack was on his way to Goucher College (home of the Gophers/my alma mater)?
So what do we think? Is it ever okay to lie? Should I keep a good answer in my back pocket for the next time I am chatting with a friendly, water toting, stranger and they ask about my kids?
I think you keep sharing your story – the truth. The story will continue to evolve and change. I mean look at how much it has changed since your son first got sick and how much has changed since then. I think you are still navigating and right now the story feels awkward but we know this is not the whole of the story for your family. I love, love, love seeing when you have a new post. Cheers from San Francisco!
Thanks Andrea. Sharing is usually my only choice. It’s like I have no control of words as they spill from my mouth. BUT I am trying to be more prepared. Cheers from shady Maplewood!
My dad died in an accident with a car: he was underneath our van and the jacks failed and it fell on him. It’s the kind of accident that when you tell about it people scrunch up their faces and say “ew” before they ever realize that you know it’s ew and have known for 30+ years. So my mom always says he died in a car accident, which is true but not true and people rarely ask follow up questions when it’s put that way. True but not true is okay when you need to use it.
True but not true – I need to come up with a true but not true. Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry about your father. I’m not sure of the right words to say, but “ew” is not one of them – just I am so sorry.
I’ve struggled with the same question all of my life when asked about how many siblings I have. My younger sister died at birth. Do I tell them I have three, two sisters and a brother? If I tell then I have three how do I answer when asked what they are doing? My sister is in Italy, my brother is in DC and my other sister died. It was even harder as a kid. How do explain there being three but only two alive? It always seemed to open me up to ridicule from the kids asking and I was already hurting enough from her death.
All I can say is for me it depends on the situation. It’s not that my sister Janet is less important because her death changed my entire life; it just depends on how vulnerable I am willing to feel and who it is that is asking.
Thank you for sharing this Diane. I am learning that everyone has a story and that whether or not to share is a very personal choice. AND there is not one right answer. I am so sorry about your sister, Janet. Her death must have left such a hole in your family. Sending love to you!