Written by Erin Santos, Isabella’s Mommy & President of The Isabella Santos Foundation
I’m proud to say I’m Isabella’s Mommy. I love meeting people who know about the Foundation or have heard of her without having to launch into the full story. We have accomplished so much over the last couple of years and I should be shouting it from the rooftops. But sometimes I don’t…
How many kids do you have? This is my least favorite question in the world. Imagine having to assess each person that asks you this to determine if you should be honest or lie. Is this just casual small talk or are they really trying to get to know me? If I lie and then they find out, that is even a more awkward situation. If I tell them the truth then I instantly get the pity look. (I dread this look.) Even those times when I lie because we are having basic chit chat, I usually end up going back later in the conversation and saying, “Actually, I had a daughter who died too but I didn’t want to bring that up but now I feel like crap about not bringing it up.” Insert even bigger pity look. And I also look like an idiot.
Nights on the town with girls are always the worst times to have her with me. The night is usually prefaced by the friendly suggestion of not telling strangers who ask what I do, what I really do. I’m asked to elaborate more on the technology consulting I do on the side or maybe just say I’m a blogger. I get it now because in the early days, I would mention that I work for the Foundation and sure enough someone would pull up a stool and talk to me all night about their Father who is currently being treated for prostate cancer. I get the look of, “I told you so” from my friends and sure enough I’m stuck in a conversation all night with a stranger about PET scans and blood work and side effects from chemo. This usually doesn’t make for the best of nights for any of us.
I also never know what kind of emotional state I’m in. The minute I mention Isabella, the follow up question is, “Oh my gosh… how did she die?” Which then leads me down a story that I really don’t want to tell while I’m checking out at Harris Teeter. I find myself answering, “She died from cancer. But it’s okay, we started a cancer foundation in her name and we raise a lot of money for research.” Did I just say, “IT’S OKAY”? Why do I do that? It’s not okay but I can’t stop my mouth from saying it each and every time. Listen lady, can I just pay for my milk?
My favorite ones are when Sophia brings her out of the box and unloads on an unsuspecting stranger who is serving us at a restaurant. All this lady wants to know is what we want to drink and Sophia kicks it off with, “My sister died”. Shoot. Me. Now. We usually have to follow up with that look that says, ignore her – she’s crazy… and I’ll have a tall glass of wine.
As much as I know that it’s okay to hide her, I feel bad every time I do it. Some days I want to not have her shadow behind me. I just want to be a normal person that doesn’t have this huge secret tragedy. Her story changes people’s perspective of me and makes me feel like I can’t be the witty, sailor mouthed, and unprofessional person that I really am. Instead, I have to be Isabella’s Mommy… and that can be a hard torch to carry.