No amount of pity seems too much for the loss of your only child. I’m sure there’s a right and wrong amount of charity to accept. Besides the food that comes when your child dies and the occasional bereavement book or pamphlet, I haven’t really been offered any charity so it hasn’t mattered. The exception to that would be my mother paying for Constance’s memorial and my friends and family giving to charities in Constance’s memory.
The lady who manages the storage area where my photo albums and work things are kept knows my car and hits the button that opens for the door for me when she sees me. That’s nice. Also, the manager of the UPS store where I get my mail now knows me, so he grabs my packages when I come in to check my box instead of waiting for me to hand him the package sheets. In both cases, I presume their courtesy is something they offer all customers; however, it is appreciated regardless.
I’m thinking about the issue of charity now because I went to brunch with some fellow alumnae from my sorority. The waiter was rude to me in the way insecure people are when given precise instructions from people they resent serving. I repeatedly requested a sliced coffee cake in a box and he kept bringing me parts of the cake I’d already paid for and refused me the box. My sorority sisters all politely but assertively came to my defense. They knew Constance. They had come to Constance’s memorial service and brought notes and food by after. I don’t know what the waiter saw when he looked at me but it wasn’t someone worthy of being treated with any respect.
This happens to me a lot. I have many memories of being bullied and mocked in restaurants. For instance, while celebrating my upcoming undergraduate graduation, a waiter mocked my broken high heel by following me back from the restroom and doing an exaggerated limp. This was before I was vegetarian, so I know his issue with me was not related to any dietary accommodations I requested that caused him to be a douchebag. My mother saw him and scolded him. I really appreciated that.
Do other people have these issues or is it something about me? It can’t be the way I look because it’s happened for my entire adult life and I’ve certainly had different looks. Please let me know.
There are two ways I get through dining out. The first is that whenever possible, I have whoever I’m with order for me. I would tell Constance's father what I wanted and he’d order it for me. He’d make eye contact with me and say, “She would like...” Occasionally, waiters would misread this situation and believe that for some cultural reason, he was selecting my food for me. In those situations, I secretly hoped all of the “hold the” and “on the sides” would mean that should they purposefully sneeze on the food, it would be on his and not mine. The joke is on me because he has an amazing immune system and never gets sick while Constance and I got sick every year, despite our flu vaccines.
The second way I get through dining without the wrath of the waiters is by posing everything as a request at their pleasure. I use a lot of “may I please” and “if you don’t mind.” When the food is wrong, I simply go hungry instead of asking for it to be made right. There’s no point in getting attitude and a plate of snot.
The thing about my sorority sisters is that they are all smart, strong women who aren’t bullied into eating something the waiter mistakenly brought them. It is one of the things I love about them. They were going to get me that box for my cake one way or another.
I have been missing out on social activities for a while, so seeing my sorority sisters was nice. Catching up meant I got to hear of their travels and their families. It was nice.
At the end of brunch, everyone turned in their donations for their membership fees for next year. I seemingly never bother with evite details and so I had missed this one. Further, I was out of checks and waiting for replacement hobo address-less checks to be delivered, so I didn’t have the cash or the check. My sisters clamored to say I didn’t have to pay it this year. I thanked them but it was really my lack of organization that was the primary issue. I would mail the check in later.
When we discussed where we would meet for lunch next, the group debated a restaurant that has two floors where one is informal and the other formal. I chimed in that I preferred the informal one because the food was the same but it was cheaper. This seemed sensible. Immediately, another generous sister said I should just come and they’d pay for my food. Their generosity is not surprising, as a major tenet of the organization is philanthropy. I remember when I was an undergraduate, a sister lost a parent and, as a result, the ability to pay for college. The organization gave her a scholarship and she graduated on time.
I don’t recall what I said to the offer of paying for my meal. I do recall wondering if it is okay to take charity for your child dying. It feels like cheating somehow because this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing happened to your child and your child isn’t the one getting the charity, you are. It felt like any badness I felt or sacrifice that happened to me was just because it was a small cross I could bear in her memory. I know that’s illogical because I can’t do anything for her anymore—though I sure wish I could.