I forgive you of everything… I love you.

I have a secret… my mom had one too. When I was a teenager, I would sometimes find my mom sitting at the dining room table alone in the early pre dawn hours. I would find her in the dark..only the disembodied red of her cigarette bobbing like a wounded firefly revealing her presence. Now that I know her secret, I wonder if that was why she was sitting in the darkness, looking out the window into a past I couldn’t see. A past she would never share with me. But, how could I blame her, once I found out that she too had a secret. When I was unable to voice mine to her. Except for those dark sleepless sentinels, I would have never guessed that she had an enormous burden to carry. I didn’t know. She was kind and laughed often, mostly at herself. She worked hard, laughed a lot, grew too many vegetables in her enormous garden, went fishing, and paid her bills on time and taught me how to live a full life. I wonder now what blood ransom did she pay in her late night solitary sanctuary. Was her burden heavy and relentless…did it sometimes prick and pull, trying to work its way, like a splinter to the surface. Or was it hidden, affecting her in the subconscious spaces of the mind, was that the wellspring of her social anxiety and hermit like habits. I didn’t know.

I remember holding her hand in the ICU. She was agitated and restless… her pain medicine past due. I ran to find the nurse so she would give the bliss filled syringe. When I returned, the pain and drug fog cleared for a moment… she looked into my eyes and..she said ‘I don’t know what I will do… I can’t go on like this… will you forgive me’. I knew in my heart she was asking permission to end the pain. My answer was simple and straight, coming from the heart. I forgive you of everything. All the past and all the future. I love you. She began to relax then, breathing easier even without the drug filled needle. She got better and then… not. We brought a little cake and sang on her birthday… our tears were the only streamers. She was childlike… not understanding whose birthday it was… clapping her hands to the song. The nurses ate the cake. Four days later she passed. It would be two years before I would understand what a gift I had given her… and me. I forgive you of everything. Her secret was Doug, my younger brother. I didn’t know. She went to Arizona ‘for classes’ when I was five. We stayed with our grandparents. She was divorced, a mother of three small kids, and had a violent and vindictive ex husband. I wish I could talk to her about how difficult that was. How brave I think she was. To cry and hug and then finally tell her I see all of her…and all of her I love. But my words I forgive you of everything… said it for me. I just didn’t know. I have a secret…my mom had one too. I just didn’t know.