At five I walked myself to school.
I was a “latch key” kid. Came home after school. Made myself a snack. Did my homework amidst the cacophony of five brothers. Horseplay. Arguments. Guitar. Swearing. Piano. Fist Fights.
My mother stopped in between jobs. Rushing, rushing, always rushing. The clock ticked 60 brief minutes while she hastened to put a meal on the table before leaving for her night job at 7.
“Mommy, look, look, I got 100 on my math test!” was lost in, “Michael, go to the store – now. I forgot to get rolls for the hamburgers.” By the time I was 13, I was the one putting the dinner on the table, so she could just sit down and eat. Take a breath.
I was 5th in a family of incredibly bright overachievers. Everything I did had been done before. Huge successes were not celebrated – they were expected.
The legacy of success. Past, present and future tense. Living in the shadows of brilliant siblings. Simple past tense.
My eldest brother, 10 years my senior, was our surrogate father. One year, he coached me to follow in his footsteps as Citywide Spelling Bee Champion. But after winning my school spelling bee, and the Regional, and making in into the coveted Citywide, I did the unthinkable.
My mother only said, on the way home, ”I can’t believe I took a day off from work for that.”
I spent five long years after college in therapy ridding myself of corrosive anger. Five years to forgive her and love her, as I do now. Five years to come to the conclusion we all already know:
She did the best she could. Simple past tense.
Don’t all parents? Don’t I?
I forgive her. She worked 7 days a week at minimum wage jobs. Her entire life was devoted to making sure we had food, shelter, clothing. Accolades were luxuries she couldn’t afford.
And today, as the parent of only one child, I forgive her even more. I struggle to balance working as a single mom and raising just one child. She somehow raised 6 of us. How is this even possible? Something had to be sacrificed.
It was my self esteem.
I forgive her.
Every day, I tell my son that he is special. That is smart. Funny. Handsome.
That he matters. To me, and to many people. I am breaking the cycle. Parenthood is breaking the cycle of error and wanting for our children what was not given to us.
But inherent in the process is new error. Will my life narrative limit my present, and mar his future?
The present. The future. The tenses of forgiveness.
Are my early experience fate? Or a road map to forgiveness?
Each day I make mistakes. I hope, when my son is a man, that he is compassionate when he recalls his childhood. I hope he will see that I did the best I could.
I hope he will forgive me, as I did my mother.
But this is not the simple past tense of forgiveness: “I forgave her.”
It is the future continuous tense of forgiveness: “I will continue to forgive her.”
I forgive her right now, For every time I doubt myself. Right now, I forgive her, right before I hit “Publish.”
Will they like it? Will it be good enough? Am I good enough? I may never be.
I am forgiving her.
I will continue to forgive.
The tenses of forgiveness. Simple past, past not perfect, past perfect continuous, present, present continuous, present not perfect.
Future. Future continuous.
Constant. Relentless. Persistent.
Did you forgive someone when it was difficult? Talk to me. I’m listening.