Tuesday, 10 May 2016

When she was young she said a cruel thing to her mother. Years later, though

When she was young she said
a cruel thing to her mother.
Years later, though…

Night after night, she came to tuck me in,
even after my childhood years. Following her
longstanding custom, she’d lean down and
push my long hair out of the way, then kiss
my forehead.
I don’t remember when it first started
annoying me – her hands pushing my hair
that way. But it did annoy me for they felt
work-worn and rough against my young skin.
Finally, one night, I lashed out at her: “Don’t
do that anymore – your hands are too rough!”
She didn’t say a thing in reply. But never
again did my mother close out my day with
that familiar expression of her love. Lying
awake long afterward, my words haunted
me. But pride stifled my conscience, and I
didn’t tell her I was sorry.
Time after time, with the passing years, my
thoughts returned to that night. By then I
missed my mother’s hands, missed her
goodnight kiss upon my forehead.
Sometimes the incident seemed very close,
sometimes far away. But always it lurked,
hauntingly, in the back of my mind.
Well, the years have passed, and I’m not a
little girl anymore. Mom is in her mid-
seventies, and those hands I once thought to
be so rough are still doing things for me and
my family. She’s been our doctor, reaching
into a medicine cabinet for the remedy to
calm a young girl’s stomach or soothe a
boy’s scraped knee. She cooks the best fried
chicken in the world, gets stains out of blue
jeans like I never could, and still insists on
dishing out cream at any hour of the day or
night.
Through the years, my mother’s hands have
put in countless hours of toil, and most of
hers were before perma-pressed fabrics and
automatic washers!

Now, my own children are grown and gone.
Mom no longer has Dad, and on special
occasions, I find myself going next door to
spend the night with her. So it was late one
Thanksgiving Eve, as I drifted into sleep in
the bedroom of my youth, a familiar hand
hesitantly stole across my face to brush the
hair from my forehead. Then a kiss, ever so
gently, touched my brow.
In my memory, for the thousandth time, I
recalled the night my surly young voice
complained: “Don’t do that anymore – your
hands are too rough!”
I reacted involuntarily. Catching Mom’s hand
in mine, I blurted out how sorry I was for
that night. I thought she’d remember, as I
did. But Mom didn’t know what I was talking
about. She had forgotten – and forgiven –
long ago.
That night, I fell asleep with a new
appreciation for my gentle mother and her
caring hands. And the guilt I had carried
around for so long was nowhere to be found.