The Apology

 a·pol·o·gy
əˈpäləjē/
noun
 1.    a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure.
“we owe you an apology”
2. a very poor or inadequate example of.
“we were shown into an apology for a bedroom”
As I have aged, the sudden appearance of people from my past or random memories tickling the edges of my mind at strange times has become the norm, rather than the exception. I seem to have the time now to pay attention and puzzle through the appearance of those people I have not communicated directly with in years.
I am sure these types of things have happened throughout my life, but I was not still enough to be aware of them occurring. I was too busy and distracted by the living to hear the whispers, so undoubtedly missed them.
I once had a beautiful cousin named Cindy, who was very dear to me- a surrogate sister in fact.
She came to live with us when I was around 9.
Her mother was my mother’s sister, and although she was seven years my senior, we were always incredibly close. I am sure my parents appreciated having a teenager in the house to do housework and keep us busy, and she definitely pitched in Sunday nights, when my parents had their revolving rummoli games away from home.
My brother and I lived for those Sunday nights when we could be as wild as we wanted, dancing around the house in our underwear, eating cake icing right out of the big metal bowl with the spatulas, and listening to whatever “weird” music Cindy was into that week.
We cut our chops on Alice Cooper and The Grateful Dead and spooked ourselves silly with Cindy’s Ouija board.
We stayed up late watching gritty 70s television like Hawaii 5-0 and The Mod Squad.
My love for Cindy just continued growing over the years; she was one of the few people that was aware of the turmoil in my home and provided comfort and wise counsel always. I believe in my heart that Cindy loved me more than any person I have ever known in my life, with the exception of my brother.
I always felt safe and loved by Cindy.
When she moved to residence in University, many a night she would call me out of the blue and tell me to pack my pajamas and come spend the night with her, pretending she was lonely by herself in her room. Two of us snuggled into her single bed with the flowery spread, watching garbage television and giggling about who was cuter- David Cassidy or Rick Springfield.
She fell in love when she was 20 to a boy she had met at university and had dated for only six months. He was Iranian, and was a doppelganger for Cat Stevens, a singer she had been crushing on for years.
My aunt and uncle told her she was too young to get married and what about university, but she was very adamant that he was her one true love and she would run away to marry him and likely whatever threats silly girls in love tell their parents in order to get their way in the end.
They were married in a formal wedding in 1977 and she looked absolutely beautiful and so in love, like a fairy tale princess.
She, of course, quit school to be a wife, and her husband went to work to support them both, as was the norm in his culture.
Their son was born in 1980, and I was there for his birth, at her request. The first time I held him, I was in love. He was such a beautiful tapestry of races, black and white from his mom and  Persian from his father. I called him little Elvis, as he had so much pitch black hair and even baby sideburns. I was that perfect age to be introduced to a baby- 15- and felt such a closeness to him, as he was part of her, and I had been allowed to be there from the very beginning of his life.
I recall that she started calling me to come stay with her at her new home when Sacha was still tiny, as her husband worked nights. I really cannot remember what job he had then, as most of his jobs seemed to require him to be away from home for more than 12 hours a day.
I would go over and play with the baby and we reverted back to our old ways, of singing together or dancing with the baby. I would spend the nights and go right to school in the mornings. A lot of times her husband wasn’t home yet, and I would find her in the mornings sitting on the couch with the baby, watching the t.v. with the sound off.
I should mention that her husband was always fond of us younger kids, and encouraged us to spend time with them. Cindy had two younger brothers the same age as my brother and I and we were all always welcome with open arms into their home. Her husband drove a very fancy sports car at the time, and I remember him sometimes driving me to school in it, and how cool I felt to be arriving in that car to high school, a dangling cigarette in my hand, with the Bee Gees blaring from his expensive car stereo system.
He was a handsome charmer- I will give him that. He knew how to make a girl feel pretty special.
The problem was, I think he likely made a lot of girls feel special during that time.
Just not his wife.
Cindy and the baby were at my parent’s house one day when I got home from school. Bags of clothes and baby items in the hallway by my room.
She was sitting on the couch with the baby on the floor on his blanket. It was pretty apparent she had been crying. I asked her what was going on and she just shook her head, eyes down.
My Dad told me he had left work to go grab her and the baby as she and her husband had had a fight.
We all just sat there waiting for my mom to get home, as she would definitely be the one to be making any decisions that needed to be made.
When she arrived, they went into the bedroom, leaving my Dad and I with the baby, and were gone for a long time.
I could hear my mother’s voice at times..shrill..angry, and I could hear Cindy’s sobbing.
That night, when we were laying together in my bed, with the baby between us, in the dark, I asked her what was happening. She told me he had hit her with the baby in her arms, because she accused him of having a girlfriend. The baby had fallen from her arms onto the bed, which was a blessing, but not one that my Mom could see.
My Mom and her sister had numerous phone calls over the next few days, going back and forth on what should be done, with Cindy’s husband calling repeatedly in between those marathon sister-calls, begging his wife to come home with their son.
She went back home to him a week later, against my Mother’s advice, her explanation being ” I have to try for my son’s sake, he’s sorry, it won’t happen again, Auntie.”
Cindy managed to hold on until Sacha was around 3 years old, the final break occurring during a months- long visit by his parents from Iran.
He had been fooling around again, not coming home, and she confronted him about it in front of his parents, which escalated into an ugly scene, with his Mother asking him why he allowed his  wife to disrespect him like that in his own home, and him responding with a few slaps to his wife to prove his masculinity.
My Dad and Mom went to get her together that time, and although I wasn’t there with them, and I certainly wasn’t told all the details, the sight of my father’s bloody knuckles were all I needed to know that this time, she wouldn’t be going back.
After staying with us for a bit, Cindy eventually got a place of her own with her son, and managed to regain her confidence and respect in herself. She went back to school, began working, and I babysat for her in the evenings while she worked.
The bond I had with her son grew even stronger during this time, and Cindy encouraged that. She shared him with all of us, and he was such a happy little boy.
His father moved over 1000 miles away, didn’t provide any support, but when he called, Cindy would proudly share with him their son’s accomplishments and encourage Sacha to talk to him on the phone.
One evening when Sacha was 10, he called me to tell me he was playing soccer that evening at a park by my home, where I lived with my husband and two young sons. I told him to pack his over night bag, and I would come with the boys, watch his game, and he could come home with us for the night.
Having talked to Cindy the day before, I knew she had been sick and told by the doctor at the emergency room that she had a sinus infection, so thought I could keep him the night, which would allow her to rest.
I told him to tell his mom the plan, and he told me his mom was in bed but could not talk to him.  I asked him if she was sleeping and he told me her eyes were open and she looked scared but couldn’t talk.
I called Cindy’s Dad and asked him to drive over to her house, as I was at home with my two sons and no car.
My uncle called an ambulance immediately upon assessing the situation with his daughter and Sacha was taken to school by the neighbour.
By the time I got to the hospital, they were taking her for a spinal tap to rule out meningitis.  As they wheeled her away, I will never forget her eyes looking at me, full of tears, but determined I understand what she was trying to convey without the ability to speak to me. She didn’t need words. I knew what she wanted and my eyes sent right back to her that I understood and would do what she needed.
( My son, Shannon, my son, what is going to happen to my son? Take care of him for me, Shannon, take care of him.)
I never saw her eyes open again.
She was transferred to intensive care and as family gathered, the doctors informed us that she had no brain activity. The virus had ravaged her system and there was no hope for survival.
Her parents asked that she be left on life support until her brother could arrive from out of province to say his goodbye to his sister, and I left to go pick Sacha up at school.
It was his last school day of the year, and he had his report card in his hand when he ran towards my car.
I cannot for the life of me remember what I said to him as I drove us back to the hospital. I likely told him Mommy was sick, and he was excitedly chattering away about his last day and plans for the summer with his friends, so I was allowed to remain silent.
I am pretty sure I  told him his Nan and Poppa were waiting for him at the hospital.
I do remember them all asking me if I could take him in to see her, as her parents were too emotional to do it.
Sitting by her bedside, I encouraged him to read his report card to her.
He asked me if she could hear him as she was sleeping and I told him she would hear everything he said.
Later that evening at his grandparent’s house, I took him outside.
It was twilight of a beautiful summer evening, and I had to tell a 10 year old child that his mother had died.
I remember us standing on the patio looking up at the sky.
I promised him that this was the hardest thing he would ever go through in his whole life and that because he was so young, that meant the rest of his life would be blessed.
That losing your mother so young meant that only good things could happen in the future.
Her eyes, his eyes, those eyes looking up at me, full of tears but also searching inside of me to reassure himself that I was telling the truth…nothing could ever be worse than this moment moving forward.
I held him as he cried and told him I would always be there for him whenever he needed me.
In the years following her death, he lived with me at times, and at other times with his grandparents. We remained close and I traveled back for his graduation from high school. My gift to him was a scrapbook of sorts, with stories about his childhood and his mother and pictures of us all together.
I wrote about how proud I was of him and how incredibly proud his mother would be of him; how she always knew he would be an achiever of great things.
He spent time with me during summer breaks in university until he moved further away across the country to begin law school.
I have always felt his physical absence deeply, although we remain in contact via texts and calls. He is always the one to start the conversations, because I don’t want to bother him…the busy lawyer working for the justice department now.
The busy father of two beautiful daughters – one that looks so much like his mother, I cannot look at her pictures without tears streaming down my face.
The apology part of this story arrives with a phone call I received a week ago.
From his father, who I have not seen in 26 years, since Cindy’s funeral.
When she died, he came back home for the funeral, and I suppose out of duty of sorts, not sure what was going to happen to his son.
Sacha was staying with me during this time, as his grandparents were just too emotionally unstable, grief-stricken, and unable to provide him with the care he needed immediately following their daughter’s death.
Of course, his father did not get the red carpet welcome from the majority of my family, but I made an attempt to be civil with him for his son’s sake.
He visited Sacha at my home, minimizing the time he would have to spend with his former in-laws.
I buffered a lot during that week.
All sides.
At the funeral home during the viewing, he asked me if he could see Cindy one last time, and Sacha responded that he wanted to be with his Dad during that.
I made sure no one was looking, and got the two of them into the room together, where Cindy was in her casket. I remember at the time knowing if any of my family saw that happening, or my part in it, I would receive an earful and a half, and it would not be pleasant for me at all. I remember feeling that it was the last time the three of them would ever be together again, as a family, and I likely wouldn’t have even attempted it but for the fact that Sacha wanted it to happen.
So, 26 years later, I receive a phone call that he is in the city I live in on a business trip, and would like to see me.
He was as charming as I remembered, still affectionate with me, and seemingly ecstatic that I had even showed up to see him.
We reminisced about old times with the family, holidays spent together over Christmas and summer vacations at the cabin. Like many people as they age, he seemed to only recall the good times and none of the bad, and I was OK with that.
We discussed his son, who he has seen intermittently over the years; he seems to feel a closeness that I know his son does not reciprocate, but I let him brag about the accomplishments and those of his 2 younger sons, who he had with another woman following Cindy’s death.
As dusk approached, we sat side by side on a bench in a public area.
The words slowed down and the silences grew.
I felt him shake a bit beside me, and turned to look at him in the dark- he was crying.
Commenced to telling me he was wracked with regret, could never forgive himself for what he did to her.  The things he didn’t do, but should have.
For both her and the son they made together.
Worrying about his judgement day- what would be in store for him. Did I know?
Shuddering sobs, spilling all of it all over me, sitting there in silence, trying not to react or fall apart myself.
He was wanting my forgiveness- wanting me to release him somehow from his pain.
Perhaps to forgive him on BEHALF of Cindy- a delegate of sorts, the family forgiver of wrong-doings.
I didn’t do it.
What I did do was tell him he could not turn back time; he could only move forward and try to make things right/better with his son.
I told him Cindy was not vindictive and would not want anyone spending a lifetime suffering with regret.
Said they were both incredibly young- and that she did love him with all her heart; truths I told him.
I refused to comfort him with emotional salve for his soul wounds. I just could not do it.
The part of me that was young and forgiving of everything is gone, I guess, and my reaction surprised me. I have always been the type to want to nurture those that are in pain, and he was certainly in pain that night.
But I couldn’t let him off that hook he placed himself on all those years ago.
Not for Cindy and most certainly not for his son.
I believe I provided him with some comfort with my truth-telling, but not what he came to me for- complete and utter absolution of his sins towards his wife and son.
Since then, I think about how we change as we age, and how regrets can grow in a person until they eventually need release of some kind.
Speaking to his son the next day, I didn’t share the details of my visit with his Dad, just the highlight reel. I suggested that his dad had regrets, and that I hoped they could some day find their way back to each other, as life is fleeting.
Sacha responded with, ” He planted the seed in the garden and walked away from it, never looking back. No water, no tending the weeds, and yet despite having done no work in that garden to help the flowers bloom, he expects to reap the bounty and receive a share of the dividend.”
No apologies.
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