Forgiveness is hard for families. Sometimes more often than should be – we get our feelings hurt. A parent shows favor to one child more than another. We forget to send a Birthday card. There are any numbers of reasons we hold a grudge against a family member. Mostly, the reasons are silly. Let me tell you three stories both sad and tragic, as time is marching on and time robs us of the chance to forgive.
First I’ll start with my own story. As a child my Dad was in Viet Nam, my Mother being the good Mother that she was would take me on weekends to stay with Uncle and his new wife. For the male influence as it were. I would say his name, I have no qualms now at identifying this monster but his children may not know what he has done or worse he may have done the same to them and I don’t want to shatter their illusion of normalcy.
My uncle would take me up to the attic and would stand behind my, putting his sweaty hands all over my breast, he would press up against me and I would drift off someplace else in my mind. I don’t know what happened after this point, I have never been able to remember or perhaps face it. I often see a round window that I am staring out of and feel sick when I remember this window. Every time I drive by a house that has one of these old windows the memory of me staring out that window comes back and I feel violently ill over again.
The last time I was up in the attic my uncle asked me if my period had started yet, he was all pressed up against me, I panicked and pushed him off if me. I ran outside of the house and I never went back in that house. I sat in the back seat of my Mom’s car curled up in a ball and prayed over and over again that my uncle would die – he did the very next day. I was introduced to a new feeling the feeling of guilt. In my mind God granted me my wish my prayer, he killed the monster.
For years, I resented my Mother for not doing anything about the abuse, I had told her and her response was to never say anything, that if I did my Father would divorce her and it would be all my fault. I think I even grew up hating my Mother for this, for making me carry the burden of guilt, shame and the worry that my Dad would divorce her.
Later as an adult I knew my Mother would never say sorry and that she would never feel any responsibility or shame for her actions, I simply had to forgive her if I wanted a normal relationship with her and for my children. I did – I forgave her, which does not mean that I have forgotten but I have forgiven her. Our life is fairly normal, we visit and chat, we have a relationship.
The next story I am going to tell you is still my story but it is also my brother’s story – it is a story of un-forgiveness and wasting time. It was Father’s day 20 years ago; I lived in Miami, starting over again. I had asked my Dada to watch my little girl for a month so I could find a job and an apartment. My Dad was flying my daughter out on his small plane; he and his best friend were coming together. You see, I had never told my Dad that I loved him and today I was going to hold his hands, look him in the face and tell him that with all my heart I loved him and that I had spent a lifetime afraid to touch him after what his brother had done to me, I was finally healed inside and out.
I was supposed to meet my Dad at this small airport, but the airport was closed to the public that day for military training that was going to happen later that week. I could not get on the property. I went to the next closest airport in Hollywood, Florida the one he did not want to land at as the runway was too short. I called the tower and gave my Dad’s plane identification numbers and my location so when he took off at the other airport the tower could tell him where I was at. It took hours but we finally met up. By that time my Dad was in a hurry, wanting to get back to Savannah before the storms. I did not get to say what I wanted to say. As my Dad taxied off he opened the window of the plane and said, “I am sending you $50.00, I want you to come home next month, I have a surprise for you.” Off he flew.
I took my daughter Shayla home; it was hot so we went for a swim at the apartments. I kept hearing the phone ringing inside so I took Shayla in and answered the phone. That day my life would never be the same. It was the tower, calling to say that my Dad’s plane had crashed and that I needed to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. When I got there I found out my Dad was alive but barely. They would not let me see my Dad until the police questioned me. You see they thought my daughter was still in the plane and they could not find her. They had dogs searching for her, I told them that here she was with me but they thought that I was hysterical and that this was not the same little girl. When I finally convinced them I was able to see my Dad. He was brain-dead but they kept him alive until my Mother and brothers could fly in to say good-bye. My Dad’s best friend died that day, his lung was punctured he was awake and begging for help but help did not get to him soon enough and he died.
They had crashed into a building which collapsed on top of them, People came and tried to dig them out but there was just too much rubble. I have more to tell about this day but will save it for another post. This is where the un-forgiveness comes in. My oldest brother Carl, who I have always adored, has never forgiven me for this day, he blames me for my Father’s death, and he said that “if our Father was not visiting you, he would not have died.” My brother lives 8 miles from me and 20 years later he still will not forgive me. Time marches on and robs us, one day there will be no more chances to speak to each other but what is even sadder he will not talk to my Mother or anyone that speaks to me. My Mother is 76 years old, how will he fees when she passes on and he can never tell her he is sorry, will he care?
That leads me to my next story. I have an Aunt Doris, 91 years old. She has recently been injured severely while at a nursing home. She may not live. If she does live she is looking at months and months in a hospital. She has a daughter and grandchildren who are refusing to see her. Don’t they get it; they may not have the chance to ever forgive her for whatever they are mad at. How will they feel? I have been told that they are mad because they did not get the chance to help plan her 90th birthday party, that my cousin Sandra and Aunt Betty planned it all – I don’t know if that is the reason or not. As I said at the beginning family gets mad at family for some of the stupidest things.
Forgiveness isn’t really for the person you are mad at. Forgiveness is for yourself, it gives you peace of mind, it lets you be free. Forgive those that have hurt you and see how soon you heal, how the pieces that are broken inside you are repaired. I have even forgiven my uncle for all the sexual abuse and one day I will remember everything he did to me, but I will be free when all those memories come back, I won’t be broken anymore.
I pray that my cousins Peggy, Dennis and Brian forgive my Aunt Doris before it is too late. I also pray that my little story will help someone else forgive those that have hurt them.