This week’s installment of the IndieInk Writing Challenge was submitted by Nicollette, who asks me to recall ‘a moment you were your absolute worst to someone, but they forgave you and how it made you feel towards them and about yourself’. Difficult on a number of different levels. I clearly need to start writing about dog poop again in an effort to offset ‘The Deep’ here. Karla’s wonderful response to my challenge can be found here.
It’s unfair to judge our actions as adolescents or teenagers, especially given the unfair advantage of time and perspective. It’s like using hindsight as a bludgeon to beat ourselves up regarding things that time has forgotten, despite our refusal to do the same. I’ve moved beyond judgment at this point; it’s easier to see now where I was coming from then, though it doesn’t excuse anything or lessen the squirming. And who doesn’t enjoy a good squirm from time to time? /raises hand/
I was about 14 at the time, which made my sister around nine and brother roughly five. Estimations, of course. Numbers aren’t important here. To this point in the story, I had already been for the previous couple years largely the responsible one for the siblings and would continue to be so until freedom rang in the form of a diploma and the military. Our house was not overwhelmingly adequate in the parenting department, to say the least. Mom did her best, which I came to appreciate after the fact having experienced actual life elsewhere, while the contribution of the other ‘adult’ unit primarily involved converting oxygen to carbon dioxide.
We had neighbors a wheat field away with whose kids I spent a lot of time playing sports and just generally doing whatever enabled me to not be home for long swaths of time. One afternoon, I was next door playing basketball with one of the neighbor kids when my sister wandered over and attempted to install herself in the game. In the narrow view of a 14-year old who felt over-burdened and under-appreciated, this was infuriating. She was horning in on my one opportunity to be free of her and my brother (for whom she served as proxy in this case). I said things to this effect. She turned around and walked slowly home, back across the field, to a house where none of us felt particularly happy to be.
My regret was immediate, despite my desperate attempts to justify my callousness. I can recall with devastating accuracy the look on her face and her posture as she walked back across that field. I give my younger self credit for understanding our shared predicament at that moment. How unfair it was of me to assume that the burden of that house was mine alone. How at least one other person might share my desire to escape. And how, despite my learned independence, others might not have acquired the same character trait that enabled me to be comfortable alone (at least from my point of view at the time). This all ran through my head in the moment it took to process the helplessness displayed in her silent march away from me. Every recollection of this since then, including that moment itself, has destroyed me.
It destroys me despite that fact that I apologized, then and later. Her forgiveness didn’t ease the memory’s impact then and doesn’t now. She’s become such an amazing person, maker of a nephew and niece, wife to a stellar guy whose enormous family is the provider of endless entertainment. Her house now is everything ours never was. Of all the comforts her story provides, perhaps the greatest is that I know that her kids will never have to dread going home. That because of her, home will always be a place worth crossing any field to reach. I’ve found rays of hope in this fact that have sustained me at times in ways such that were she to ever require it, I’d sell everything and write her a check.
Sir @ March 16, 2011