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 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.”
Was she 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 about. 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 saying that she was heading to New York and would call her
when she got settled.
They did eventually talk, but the relationship never recovered.
Her mom turned cold, and Bree came to accept it as the price
she had to pay for her independence. Thinking about it today,
she can only imagine what she put her mother through. But the truth
is, she did what she had to do, and though she never became a big singer, she did get married, became a mom, and lived life her way. Her mom, on the other hand, was still standing in the same spot 25 years later, as salty, and hurt, as the day Bree left. So really who won? There was no need to argue over who was right.
“I’m sorry about the way I left,” Bree apologized.
After a brief silence.
“Okay. Let’s move on,” her mom replied.
Bree’s giddiness about mending the relationship with her mom came bursting through the phone as she relayed her story. I met her not long after she made the 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. Maybe this was the start of something new? I couldn’t help thinking that 25 years is a long time to be mad. So many beautiful memories they never had. 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 the pain of getting hit by a car. I think about some of the people that I may owe an apology to and I hope they’re
not waiting on it. I hope 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 happiness.