Hope you enjoy A Time to Forgive – My gift to you.
Best Wishes & Happy Reading!
A TIME TO FORGIVE
John D. Ottini © 2016
It’s two days before Christmas and snowflakes the size of cotton balls are falling down around me as I cross the parking lot and head towards the main entrance.
The building is brightly decorated in holiday attire, disguising the sad nature of its existence.
I take a deep breath before I pull open the door of Good Grace Hospice, and I notice that Uncle Bo is standing inside the front entrance, waiting.
He immediately wraps his big arms around me. “You’re doing the right thing, kiddo.”
“If you say so, Uncle Bo.”
“This way,” he says as we walk down the corridor towards Mother’s room.
I haven’t seen my mother in several years and it’s taken a lot of convincing on Uncle Bo’s part before I conceded to visiting her here.
Mother and I haven’t been on the best of terms for many years. Our mother-daughter relationship was always awkward and strained. Even as a child I never felt love or kindness from her; she was always too preoccupied with other things to spend quality time with her only child. Sure, she did the basic things like feed and clothe me, but there has never been any warmth in her touch or love in her eyes. I often wonder if she really wanted a child.
When I turned twelve, she sat me down and informed me that she was leaving Father. She told me not to blame myself, that it was nothing I’d done. She and Father no longer loved each other, she said, and she did not want to be in a relationship with a man who didn’t love her. She said it as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
My Father took the separation very hard. He never spoke to me about it, but I could see by the distance in his stare and the absence of joy in his actions that it hurt him deeply.
After the divorce, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to live with Father, and as I suspected, Mother had no problem with that arrangement.
Over the last twenty years, Mother has done a great job of staying out of our lives. Other than the occasional birthday card, holiday visit, or uncomfortable phone conversation, she’s been a no-show.
The last time I saw her was five years ago at my Father’s funeral. I remember how she hugged me awkwardly and gave me her condolences as if she was a friend of the family, rather than the woman who gave birth to me and shared a life with the man we were burying that day.
I was so disappointed in her that I swore she’d be out of my life forever.
From the moment my father passed away, his brother has taken it upon himself to be my surrogate father. Uncle Bo has always been there when I needed someone to celebrate my achievements, and is more than ready to provide words of wisdom, or, even better, a shoulder to cry on after lost loves and life’s failures.
So the only reason I’m walking down this hall today is because Uncle Bo asked me to be here. Sadly, I’m not sure what I feel for my dying mother, but I know that owe my uncle the courtesy of coming at his request.
“Tell me again why I’m here, Uncle Bo?”
“Because I asked you to and because your mother is dying and wants to tell you something important.”
“Great,” I reply, rolling my eyes.
Uncle Bo grabs my arm and stops me in the hallway.
“Listen, Kerry, I wouldn’t have asked you to come here if it wasn’t important. No matter what you think of your mother, she’s still your mother. If you don’t do this, I know you’ll regret it the rest of your life—and mine.”
His eyes are welling up with tears. I’m not sure why this means so much to him, but the thought of disappointing him brings a lump to my throat.
“You’re right. I guess this is the least I can do. If Mother needs closure and forgiveness before she dies, who am I to deny her that?”
“Thank you, Kerry,” he says, holding my cheeks in his large hands. “You won’t regret this.”
The door has a small holiday wreath and a large number 22 mounted on it in black-colored letters, he knocks and we enter. The room is dark and smells of disinfectant. My mother is lying in a bed with tubes protruding from her arms and nose.
Uncle Bo takes her hand. “Millie, I have a Christmas surprise for you.”
She smiles and says in a voice thin as a thread, “Kerry? Is that really you?”
“Uncle Bo told me there’s something you need to tell me?”
She takes my hand and with a frail grip pulls me close. “I’m so, so glad you came, dear.”
She looks so weak and tired. And for the first time in a long time she looks deeply into my eyes and her words sound sincere. It doesn’t erase all the years of pain and alienation, but it touches me to hear her call me dear.
“I should have told you this a long time ago, but I didn’t know how to say it.”
“Say what? That you’re sorry for the way you treated me my whole life?” It surprises and frightens me that I feel the sting of my accusation.
“Yes. I am sorry we didn’t have a better relationship. I wish I could do everything over again because I know I would handle things differently, but that’s not what I need to tell you.”
“Then what is it?” I ask, unable to keep the hurt and impatience out of my voice.
“Uncle Bo is your real father.”
“What?” I turn towards Uncle Bo, feeling like I’ve just been hit over the head. He nods.
“Did Father know?”
Uncle Bo nods again.
All these years, I thought my father was upset because Mother had left him, but this is the real reason his heart was broken.
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
“Your mother made me promise never to tell a soul. I would have taken this secret to my grave if she hadn’t changed her mind now, on her death bed.”
I drop my head into my hands, “Oh my God.”
Uncle Bo stands with tears in his eyes and his voice breaks. “You hate me, don’t you? Please don’t hate me. I can’t—l can’t stand to lose you now. You’re all I have.”
“I could never hate you, Uncle Bo. You’ve always been the one constant in my life. And now I understand why. ”
“I’m so, so sorry, kiddo.” He wraps his arms around me. “Your mother and I never meant for this to happen. We were just foolish kids whose one lapse in judgment caused so much of damage. Your father, God rest his soul, forgave me. I hope that someday you’ll find it in your heart to do the same.”
“I’m so confused at this moment, I don’t know what to think or feel.”
My mother stares at me, and for the first time I see the barrier drop as her eyes fill with tears.
And then I hear her say something that I thought I’d never hear.
“I love you, Kerry. I’m truly sorry for all the pain I’ve caused you and your father.”
“Oh Mom . . .” It’s the only thing I can force out past the lump in my throat as I reach down and wrap my arms around her. There is nothing to say and so much to forgive.
My mother passes away on Christmas Eve just as the clock ticks over to 5:00. I gently lay her hand back on the blanket, and Uncle Bo and I step out into the hallway.
I use my scarf to wipe the tears from my eyes and hug Uncle Bo.
“I hope you know that your mother loved you,” he says, his voice gentle, “but every time she looked at you or held you, it reminded her of the pain she caused your father. You may not agree with what she did, but she could never forgive herself for being unfaithful, so she removed herself from your lives because she believed that’s what was best for you and your father.”
“Did you love her, Uncle Bo?”
“Yes, but not in the way your father did. I ask the Lord for forgiveness every day for what I did to my brother. There are so many things I regret doing in my life—but having you as my daughter is not one of them.”
“This is so surreal, Uncle Bo. My brain is having trouble processing everything. But one thing I do know is that I’m tired of being angry. Tired of hating Mother and hating my life. If there’s ever a time for forgiveness, I think this is it.”
“Do you mean that, kiddo?”
I smile. “I’m not sure I will ever be able to call you ‘Dad,’ but I do love you like a father and for now that will have to be enough.”
Uncle Bo hugs me, kisses my forehead and says, “That’s more than I hoped for. From now on let’s promise ourselves to be happy. Can you do that?”
I lay my head against his shoulder. “That’s a promise I think I can keep.”
“Merry Christmas, Uncle Bo.”