A story my girlfriend shared with me the other day about a phone conversation with her mom…
“Tell me what you want from the house when I go.”
“Go where?” Bree said to her mom.
“You know, when I die.”
“Die!? What’s wrong?? Are you sick???” Bree panicked.
“No. I just want to be prepared.”
This was so weird.
“I can’t, ma, just write down whatever you think I’d like.”
“I don’t know what you’d like because I don’t know you like that.”
“You don’t know me like that? Ma, are you serious? All the times I’ve tried to get to know you over the years and all you’ve ever done is shut me down. You only came to visit me once in 25 years and that was when I got married, and I had to beg you and pay for your plane ticket.
And then there’s the grandchild that you completely forgot. Now you wanna act like it’s my fault?”
“So it’s my fault?” Bree’s mom said. “Do you remember how you left?”
Whoa. She was bringing that up? They had never spoken about the way she left home. How she had just graduated from high school and had her heart set on becoming a singer- her mother wanted her to go to college. As a compromise, Bree applied to schools with music programs out-of-state, but her mother had her own plans and changed the applications to local colleges in Mississippi where they lived. Bree realized then that the only way she was going to be able to live her own life was by leaving. So one day she bounced, leaving nothing but a note telling her mom that she was heading to New York and would call her when she got settled.
They did eventually talk, but the relationship never recovered.
Bree’s mom turned ice cold, and Bree came to accept it as the price she had to pay for her independence. Thinking about it as a mom today, she can only imagine the pain she put her mother through. But the truth is, Bree did what she had to do, and she’s happy with how her life turned out. She became a singer, got married, and had a kid- so in a way she won. Listening to her mom now, she almost felt sorry for her because she lost so much more than she gained. Bree saw no need in arguing over who is right.
“Ma, I’m sorry about the way I left. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Okay,” her mom softened. “Let’s move on.”
They made a pact to start talking every week.
Bree was so giddy when she told me this story that I couldn’t help but be giddy too. I met her not long after she made that move to NYC and over the years I could see that there was something missing. A mother’s love is like a warm coat in the winter so you know when someone leaves home without it.
I’m so happy for Bree, and her mom too. 25 years is a long time to be waiting for an apology. So many beautiful memories they will never have. So much pain. I think about what happens when we feel wronged by someone, and how it only hurts us, even if we’re right.
My mom used to ask me, “Do you want to be dead right?” when I would walk out in the middle of traffic as soon as the light turned green. As if being right was a protective shield against getting hit by a car. Luckily, I came to realize, sooner-than-later, that they’d run me right down because nobody really cares like that. Sometimes they don’t even know. They’re not even looking. It’s not even about me.
I think about the people that I may owe an apology and I hope they’re not waiting on it. Hopefully, they’ll talk to me about it or find a way to move on. At the end of the day, we’re all responsible for our own hurt. We’re all just moving traffic.