There is something strange about my childhood. From around age six until age ten, I have practically no memories at all. From ten until twelve, they are scattered. My brain woke up three days shy of my twelfth birthday. The day my grandmother died.
He had been around for a couple of years by then, but there are only shadows of him sitting at a Thanksgiving table or at the Nintendo. But my mind vividly remembers the second night of my grandmoms viewing. He stayed behind at the house with me and we built with my new Lego set. We started to talk and connections were made.
Fast forward a couple of years and there are memories of sitting on a desk or bed and hours upon hours of talking and listening. I did a lot of the listening side. It lead to a lot of learning too. Music was shared, lyrics learned, logic skills tested to the brink, all of those memories were there. A lot were good and I yearned for more time talking to him. There were bad ones too. He had a temper and I sometimes got in the way. However, over time I learned how to diffuse the emotional bomb... I learned diplomacy between him and his grandparents.
A couple of years after that and there are a trio of upper teenagers sitting at a table playing blackjack and a middle teenage girl learning really quickly how to keep a straight face when crude jokes fly. There were walks outside and hours talking at the side of a old pickup truck. There were secrets, sometimes trouble with the other cousins, more music and a lot of hugs. I mediated between him and other family members sometimes. But we always had laughter.
Then he asked the biggest favor of my life. Would I stand in the middle for his daughter. Would I promise to be there for her. She hadn't even been born yet and it was the night before his wedding. We were on the couch and tears had just been shed. I was only fifteen, but I knew exactly what he was asking. And I have spent the last 20 years doing just that. But it tore us apart...
I advocated for her and what was right for her, spoiled her, listened to her, and disagreed with just about every member of the family over her at one point or another. He and I argued. He acted in ways I despised. One day the line was crossed one too many times and I severed contact. For the first time since memory, I wanted nothing at all to do with him. And it lasted... for four years. It was a burden too, because of his daughter, mother and grandmother. However, it kept going.
But time scabs over wounds, and if you don't pick at it, those wounds heal. It was December, and I just crossed the bridge into NJ and stopped to call his grandmother to say I was an hour out. He picked up the phone. A few words were exchanged and I hung up. He called back a few minutes later, saying we needed to talk. So, I pulled the car over and we did. And the next day I went to where he was living and visited again. But communication didn't continue past that. Then, just a few weeks ago, I was in NJ again. He was at his grandmothers doorstep minutes after I arrived and we visited three different times. Forgiveness, on both sides, really happened. I was there, on the bed again, talking and listening - just like old times. It felt good, real good. The weight was lifted. No, it won't ever be the same... but for now, it is a start in the right direction.
Forgiveness. One word with such power.