It's been just over 14 months since the death of my son, Gabriel.
If he had survived his birth, I would be spending much of my time at home chasing around a toddler, making sure that the house is not hiding any surprises for him to find and surprise us with.
Instead, I can see my son in the same place every day that I am home. His ashes sit on a shelf erected for that purpose. I will never see my son grow from infant, though childhood into adulthood. I don't even know what colour his eyes were. As Mrs. Spit and I were discussing possible eye colours a possible future child might have, this thought came to me. You see, Mrs. Spit has a gorgeous set of blue eyes. Her eyes remind me of a clear afternoon sky during a prairie winter. Me? I have eyes that change with the light, the time of day, maybe even with my mood - I've been blessed with eyes that get called hazel, because nobody can ever figure out what colour they are at a given time. The mystery thus becomes a question of what eye colour do we pass on?
Yesterday morning, I had the express displeasure of sitting through a "tri-party" meeting regarding my construction project from last summer. I drove 8 hours to and from this meeting from the project I'm presently working on. We had a joint meeting with the contractor, the client (the provincial transportation department), and the consultant (us). I was there with my senior manager and my construction engineer. Two hours of discussing what went wrong last year. This with the contractor who doesn't like me anymore - he thinks I have a personnal agenda against him.
There were a number of items where eyes were turned to me in a blame-casting manner. Indeed, the biggest problems we've had on the job stem from actions I took at the end of the job, in error. We had a "process" problem, which had we done things differently, would have led to a much friendlier conclusion to the job.
The manager from the transportation department was at Gabriel's funeral. Both of my engineers that were at the meeting with me came to Gabriel's funeral. How do I point out that last year was the worst work-year of my life? As I have my manager reminding me (somewhat in jest as I'm putting in major OT hours right now) that it's salary review time this month, I recall that I struggled immensely last year.
So there I sat in this meeting, thinking to myself that had things occured differently, I would not have struggled to finish one problem construction project. I would not have dreaded working with that same contractor on a new project last summer. I would have been able to focus more clearly on what I needed to do, and when it had to be done. In this unfair world that we live in, I was expected to bury my grief and continue on as though Gabriel's had never happened. I sat, with a metaphorical target painted on my forehead for people to place blame. I had to say "yes, I screwed that up." or "yes, it was an error that this happened" when I wanted to say "Look, my son died. I should have taken months off of work to grieve him. I didn't. As a result, you got less than I am capable of. Get stuffed."
It still hurts me deeply and intensely when I think of all that isn't, because my son is dead. It hurts me that people don't know that the new me exists. I have to wrap myself in a blanket of silence lest people think I'm a simpering pity case who can't function in the world. Engineering and the construction industry isn't for the emotionally accessible. It's takes someone thick-skinned and hard-nosed. If you can't take someone swearing at you because you're telling them to do work according to the rules, then there's always other work.
The silence took me.