Only Child

In this memory, I’m about ten. I’m walking down the street with my mother when we come across the mother of someone we know. She and my mother start chatting, and after a while, I hear a question.

“Do you have any sibling?”

That routine question. I almost sigh because I know exactly how this conversation is going to go.

“Well…” I open my mouth, and my mother cuts in.

“I had a son younger than her, but we lost him.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” the lady’s kind face fills with sympathy. I look at her face very carefully to see if she turns away from me. She doesn’t. Now, I wait for the next line.

“So, you’re an only child now.”

I’ve heard this sentence a million times by now, and yet, the disappointment upon hearing it is as huge and heavy as ever. My mother has just told her I had a brother. If she’d really heard that, she wouldn’t call me an only child because having a sibling once means having one forever. You don’t stop having a brother just because he’s physically gone.

I want to tell all of this to the lady, but I know she is kind and means well. So I keep my mouth shut and don’t say anything.