Monday, January 26, 2009

"Whoops" A Story from the DMV

"When was it due?" the clerk at the DMV asks me.

"The registration renewal was due January of 2008," I state plainly.

"Whoops," she replies and does this smacking sound that makes her lips go one way and her eyes go the other.

I started to speak, "Well, my daughter died just a bit over a month prior, and I was grieving. I could barely get out of bed and put clothes on, much less take care of my registration renewal. I couldn't remember the date of our wedding anniversary, much less the date the paperwork was due. In January, I spent my time painfully studying the fresh ground around her grave and noting the dates other angel babies graced their parents with life, so I didn't notice the "grace" period had passed."

But I didn't say any of it. In fact, I didn't speak at all. I had no energy to return sarcasm for sarcasm, and no reason to offer an explanation. After all, I still had to get that renewal completed, and I didn't need her to know my grief, and frankly, she wasn't responsible for my error. And saying nothing, I carefully handed her a copy of my temporary license with a picture of me from when I first moved to the state. I felt defeated. "That's my face long before I was pregnant. Long before Caitlin was born. Long before she died," I thought. I half wished that they would take another picture, I'd be several years older, with my gray showing, but then it would be a picture of Caitlin's mother and a picture of me. And I would have liked that. I would have liked that.

All I could hear was the click of her fingers on the keyboard and a request for $39.00. OK, that made me smirk on the inside and jerked me from my silent grief back to my mundane task."What an insignificant amount," I thought. I wrote the check and waited for the paperwork. She handed me my manilla card with a new renewal date, 2010.

What significant events will occur between now and then? I wonder.

"Make sure you get your inspection completed within 5 days" she looks at me with what I thought were kinder eyes.

I don't know why, but I could have sworn that she had softened, and her sarcasm over my super-late renewal was replaced by a smile. I suppose my face was an open book, as usual, and I must have appeared to be quite shaken. Though she likely concluded that it was because I upset about being so late with my renewal. She couldn't have known that the reason for my silence was that I wasn't there at the DMV, I was in grief.

None-the-less I was grateful for her change of demeanor and for the gentle smile she gave me as I left.

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