Saturday, November 13, 2010

Melancholy and Other Dogs that taste like fruit…

When I was little, about 4 or 5, my mom would sing us songs all the time that she knew.  Songs like “what do you do with a drunken sailor” (this music is now background to some SpongeBob episodes), Puff the Magic Dragon, John Denver songs and “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.  Alright, I was 7 on that last one but you get my point.  Mom sang to us all the time.  Dad traveled a lot on business so it was one of the things we did to have fun.

One time, my Dad was gone for a few days, and the night he was getting home he was real late.  My mom, in an effort to cheer us up went to the door and wrapped her arms around herself and it made it look like my Dad was walking in through the door hugging her.  We were so excited for a second, but when my mom turned around to show us it was a joke I remember getting upset at her for tricking us.

Things must have gotten really rough for my mom and one night she decided to leave.  I think I was about 6 and I remember my Dad coming into my bedroom to wake me up and said “Your mother is leaving.  See if you can say something to get her to stay.”

What?  Now I admit, I was a very articulate 6 years old.  I could sing the 3-2-1 contact song, realized Under Dog popped pills from a ring to get his super powers and would pretend to be interviewed by talk show hosts when I spent too much time in the bathroom.  But I had no idea what to say to get my mom to stay.  I didn’t even know why she wanted to leave.  So I did what every 6 year old would do when told their mom was leaving for good.  I cried.

It must have been several agonizing moments for my mom to see her kids that way, but in the end, she stayed.  For a few more hours, at least until we went to bed.

Flash forward 15 or so years to the well adjusted individual with no psychological baggage that I was.  Yup.  I had become a Christian, and started going to church.  I remember telling my mom about my new found faith, and she would humor me and my stories.  She would smile as I told her that the Pastor I listened to was such a good speaker.  She would deadpan response to me and say “Hitler was a good speaker to.” 

As I said, no psychological baggage on this guy here.

I was finally able to convince my mom to at least come to the church I attended in Indiana.  After the first service my mom ever attended said to me “You know son, I can see why you like the Baptist church so much.  They seem to make a big deal about the importance of family”


But she was right in a way.  I never noticed it before but there was a sense of teaching that “Dad – you lead the home, you love your wife and raise your kids”.  What a novel concept it was.

My mom ended up joining the church I attend in Lockport.  I remember being at church for some event or another and my mom was sitting behind me in the building.  Very few people were there.  But she was looking down and she said to me “Craig, I’m sorry”

“Sorry for what Mom?”
“For leaving you kids.  I never said I was sorry.”

Wow, what do you say?  It would have been great to rehash every scene I had in my head when I didn’t have a mom and it would have been nice for her to be there.  Or the times that Christmas or any other Holiday were spent driving around minus 1 parent because that was just the way it was now.

Some of you know what I mean.

I said the only thing that came to mind.  I forgave her.  I would like to say some deep rooted bible verse or spiritual insight came to me when I told her that, but that would be lying.  My mom just needed to know she was forgiven.  I can’t imagine being trapped in the guilt of a decision for over 20 years.  It was easy to say it.

Things were different now, I had kids, and my mom had grandkids that were hers to share her time with.  Why worry about the past?  The answer is simple.  Because she still left us.  I mean, how can you leave your own kids?  No more stories, no more songs or singing, no more tuck-ins by mom.  All of it never happened.

I said I forgave her, but that didn’t take anything away.  There was no absolution or great weight lifted.  In fact, it made it heavier.

That was until one night when my mom came over to watch the kids so my wife and I could have a date night.  This was just 3 or so years ago.  Collin, my little fuzzy headed tornado was 2 years old.   That day I remember finding old cartoons from when I was a kid to watch on youtube and I came across Puff the Magic Dragon.  So the kids were eating dinner before the wife and I went out and before Grandma got there.  I put Puff on for them and they watched and laughed and asked questions.  The song is played throughout the show, so after the movie the kids asked to hear it again and I found a live concert version of the song.  It was this one:

Well, I turned on the video and my mom knocked at the door.  In the next few minutes I had my shoes in hand and the kids had come in to hug Grandma.  Katie and Brandon went back to the table to finish dinner, but Grandma and Collin sat down on the far left of the side of the couch while I put my shoes on at the right hand side.

I was talking about work to my mom, about her trip over to my house and I realized I was talking over her.

Over her singing. 

I stopped talking and turned to see my mom cradling Collin in her arms.  Their noses touching…my mom almost whispering to the song coming from the video.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain, Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.”

In an instant, I saw me and I was 4 again.

The revelation that I was missing earlier, the great tidal wave of everything washing away that didn’t exist when I forgave my mom.  It came here.

As did the scripture verse.

old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

My mom could not go back and neither could I to when I was 6 and she was leaving.  Time in its honesty and possibly cruelty does not work that way.  In truth, I wouldn’t want it to.  What I cherish is the lesson in forgiveness that should be the hallmark of my life as a Christian.

Without it, I would never have seen this.