He sat in my kitchen, in a chair with one leg pulled up to his chest, and his chin on his knee, watching me cook. I was cooking and talking to the dog, and bantering back and forth with our 12-year-old son, when I said something that made him laugh. And because I like it when people think I’m funny, I stopped and smiled at him—you know the smile? The one that says, see, I’ve still got it. He was smiling back.
“What?” I asked.
“I don’t hate you anymore. He said.
“Ha! I don’t hate you anymore either.”
It was mostly true for both of us.
The 12-year cold war. Over just like that. Except for a few skirmishes.
As the years went by, I imagined, as we got older, and his parents did too, I would help him take care of them. I imagined that someday we would be roommates, with separate rooms, with him beating me at Scrabble, and us arguing over politics or something equally arguable. I imagined we would be grandparents together, both vying for top spot on the grandparent roll call.
On December 31st. 2010, I called him to say Happy New Year. And I meant it with all my heart. He said Happy New Year back to me—and I could tell he meant it too. Six days later my son called me telling me his dad had just died. 2011 was not a happy year at all. I cried for days. I cry still. That grandchild I imagined is here now but he won’t get to know him. So many moments lost.
That day in my kitchen was the closest either one of us ever got to an apology. Neither of us ever said I forgive you—but I’m sure we both meant that. I meant that. I guess I can’t put words in his mouth now.
My life changed that day. A big dark cloud disappeared but I didn’t notice it until later. I can say now… that when all that hurt and anger left, I started breathing. My brain started working better and my life started falling into place.
If I have learned nothing else in my life, I’ve learned to forgive. Even when we don’t want to. Even when we think that is that last thing we will ever do-- it’s what we should do to free ourselves from the hate that devours our heart and spirit. It’s a gift to yourself to forgive—and maybe a gift to the other person too, but that’s okay, because you just never know.