Frailty is a quality that the young do not understand. And even those of us that are much older do not really understand it… until it becomes who we are.
In that moment when I watched my mother die, I became frail.
Outwardly nothing but a few additional furrows in my brow showed, and my own daughter, standing in the doorway watching her father stare down at the grandmother he never let her know, did not see the change.
Years of anger at this woman who was there in front of me, ate away at the very structure of who I could have been, and her last words followed by her last breath felt like a weight had been placed on me that my corroded self could no longer bare.
When I looked up, I saw the crudely made wooden jewelry box that I crafted for her in seventh grade sitting on the bureau. Next to it was a picture of my father and I that she had taken after we’d finished the tree fort in our small backyard, an area that was now paved over into a parking lot. The room’s blue walls were faded, the remaining color muted even further in splotches where the grime from the heat registers had deposited over the years.
Reaching a moment when you realize that you have been wrong for a long, long time is like falling into an abyss whose bottom remains obscure from your view for what seems like, and could become, eternity. Fear builds up inside you, because you know that when you hit the ground that pain will become the only thing that fills the hollowness that was created when what you thought was true became the lie.
I was still falling when I heard the word “dad.” First softly, but then quickly repeated three times, each time with a stronger voice, which was then followed after a long pause by.
“Dad, she’ll forgive you. She’ll forgive you.
“And…I will too.”
In that one moment my daughter gave to me, what I withheld for so long: Forgiveness, understanding, and unconditional love. And that night, right before I fell asleep, I finally gave the same to my mother.
NOTE: I had no intention of continuing this story after part three. That story as it evolved was even making me sad. When I sat down with my coffee this morning, the first two sentences that are written above appeared in my head, and I have learned that when something keeps repeating in my head that I have to write it down or it will continue to haunt me for the entire day. I initially did not connect that thought to the Monday Writing Essential story until my hands just typed the third sentence, which was quickly followed by the next two paragraphs. I really wanted to extricate myself from the feelings my own words were causing, but I couldnâ€™t until I wrote the final line.
This is not great writing, I know. But to me the process that caused it to unfold continues to amaze me as I inch along this journey to become a better writer.