Last time I ended with grandpa telling me that “you can’t unsay a cruel remark.” I have heard the same adage as “you cannot un-ring a bell” and “you cannot put toothpaste back in the tube.” Grandpa made that saying come alive for me one day when we were just sitting and talking, two men engaged in man-talk, one man seven and the other seventy. During the course of our conversation I mentioned that my mom was sometimes very mean to me. When he pressed me for details, I told him how she wouldn’t let me do many of the things I wanted to do and that she was so strict about bedtime and other kids were allowed to stay outdoors later, I could even hear them outside playing while I was already in bed.
Gramps asked me what I would do when mom was so mean to me. I confessed that I sometimes told her that I thought she was mean and even once told her that I wished I had different parents. Grandpa listened to me until I was done then took out his bag of Redman and shoved some into his mouth, leaned back in his chair and just sat quietly for a few minutes. I figured he was trying to figure out how to get my mother straightened out, I was wrong! He finally spit, hit the cuspidor perfectly, sat his chair up straight, looked me in the eye and began speaking in the steady, authoritative voice that I had become so accustomed to and respected so deeply. To me, when grandpa spoke, it seemed like the voice of God himself speaking.
He began “boy, do you love your mother?” I told him that of course I loved her, she is my mom. He said he was not sure I was telling the truth and I was near tears because grandpa had never accused me of lying. It was like he stabbed me right in my heart. I was totally confused when he continued.
Your mother loves you and she does her best to protect you and to teach you good habits and then you tell her that you wish she was not your mother. “You are about the meanest kid I have ever known. You ripped your mother’s heart right out of her chest and threw it in the garbage heap.” He told me that every mean thing that I ever say to my mother will form a chain around my neck that I will carry for my whole life and when the chain gets to heavy it will break my back and I would never have happiness in anything in this life.
“Someday, boy, your mother is going to die and you will have to look at her in her casket and know that the pain caused by the chain you are carrying is nothing compared to the pain you placed on her heart. You have a lot of thinking to do and right now I am not sure we can be friends anymore. You think about it tonight and we will talk tomorrow and see if you can find a way to forgive your mother for her love of you and find a way to empty your heart of this meanness you have hidden there, then we will see about you and me.” With that he stood and walked away leaving me sitting there feeling like my whole world had just ended. I had hurt my mother and I had lost my grandpa. I was truly a lost little boy with some real grown up problems on my mind.
I did not sleep much that night and tried to think what life would be like if my mother was dead. I cried a lot that night then I prayed a lot. In the morning I asked grandpa if I could talk to him and he asked me what I wanted like I was a total stranger. I told him that I was sorry for bring mean to my mother and that I did not want anyone else for a mother and that I never wanted her to die. By that time I was sobbing because I loved my mother and was so ashamed that I had said things to hurt her. I told him that if she was here I would hug her and never let her go.
When I finished, he took me in his arms and held me like I was a big fish that might slip away. He said”sonny boy, every word you ever utter lives forever but there are words that can cancel out the bad words so that they can become meaningless, the best ones are I’m sorry. Do you want to call your mom and try it out?” Of course I wanted to and did. Looking back, I doubt my mom had any clue what that phone call was all about, but I am sure that she was moved by it and loved it.
When grandpa called me “sonny boy” rather than “boy” I knew that things were ok between us. As things worked out, I was not there to see my mother in the casket but I can tell you that there were no more links added to that chain grandpa talked about, at least not for being mean to my mother. Today I still wonder how grandpa gained so much wisdom. I will never know that but I am glad he did and that he shared some of it with me while we were sitting around the old coal stove.
Till next time, Love and Peace to you all