There's no handbook on how to handle some of the situations Cooper, Katie and I encounter in life without Steve.
A couple of weeks ago, a co-worker at my new job emailed me to ask for my address and my husband's name. (She's getting married soon.)
I wrote back with my home address and my best attempt at a lighthearted way to address the Steve issue. Something like:
My sweet husband's name is Steve, but he passed away in 2009. He no longer receives regular mail. =)
I thought the smiley face might soften the news a little. And I think Steve would have appreciated the "regular mail" bit.
Last week a few friends came over to help empty contents of three rooms. (Remember the February 2012 flood? We had carpet replaced in all the affected rooms. That carpet was defective. It had to be replaced, which meant we had to move everything out again. I have good friends.)
One friend's son, who we've known for a couple of years, definitely post-2009, wandered around the house for a bit before asking Katie, "Where's your Dad?"
"He's in heaven," she said, barely moving her eyes from a Crashbox episode on television.
Our little friend was incredulous. He looked to me for confirmation. I told him that Cooper and Katie's dad had died, sadly, and that he is in heaven.
Yesterday another co-worker and I were walking together. She asked about Cooper and Katie's camps this week. Cooper is at a science and engineering day camp; Katie is at a creative problem solving program. This led her to ask about their interest in science and math, which led her to ask about my husband.
"What does your husband do?" she asked.
"He passed away about three years ago," I said, feeling terrible that I'm having to tell her this news, knowing that it's going to make her uncomfortable even though I'm not at all uncomfortable talking about Steve. "He was a hospital administrator with an English literature degree who was really creative and really good at math and science."
This is the truth: I am thankful that Cooper and Katie aren't known to everyone as the kids whose dad died. I am thankful that I'm not instantly recognized as a young widow. I am thankful that we have not stopped growing, laughing and living because Steve died.
But every now and then I sort of wish that someone would circulate a memo in advance of meeting us -- just to ease the discomfort for the other folks.
What would be even better: Steve here with his witty lines and sarcastic, slightly self-deprecating humor. If only he could coach me.