Do you ever sit down in the evening and think back on your day, reflecting … smiling … regretting? That’s sort of where I am in my life.
Especially the regretting part.
At ninety-five, I’ve lived a lot of years. Some of them good, more of them not-so-good. In fact, some of them I can’t even remember. Not because my memory is failing, but because those years are blurred by emotions that I allowed to consume me. Anger and unforgiveness have a way of blocking the ability to truly live.
But age has a way of kicking you in the face. And the longer you live, the harder you get kicked. That’s where the regretting part comes in.
... My daughter, Vicki, was a thorn in my side from the day she was born. Colicky as a baby, strong-willed as a toddler, just plain bratty in her prepubescent years. All-out rebellion took over after that. Drugs, alcohol, two abortions. For a long time, I tried the loving approach. Picked her up from god-forsaken parts of town in the middle of the night, sat and prayed by her bedside for hours on end, told her that God had a plan for her life until I was blue in the face, held her when she cried, took her to counseling.
The worst years were those between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one. That’s when the bitterness set in. I resented Vicki but, more than that, my feelings towards God had become acidic. He wasn’t answering my pleas to help my daughter.
One particularly rough night, after seven long hours of cleaning up my daughter’s vomit and listening to her scream about what horrible mother I was, I decided to show her just how awful I could be. So I exercised some tough love and kicked her out of the house for good. She took off in a rage, threatening to never call me again.
And she didn’t. It was as if she disappeared from the planet.
I didn’t even care. My anger grew, and a big part of me was relieved that I didn’t have to deal with her anymore. I had done all I could for Vicki. As far as I was concerned, she was on her own. She would need to crawl back on her hands and knees and beg for mercy before I would even think of forgiving her for all she put me through...
At the memory, I swipe at a tear before it can make its way down my weathered skin. That was forty-five years ago. The worst part is for the last ten years, I’ve known where she is – I heard through an acquaintance that Vicki is now married, has three children, and is living in Indiana. But no matter how desperate I am to see my grandchildren, I just haven’t been able to make that call.
I’ve always considered myself a Christian. And many times, I’ve justified my decision to use tough love on Vicki. But, every step closer to death makes me more sensitive to the trail I'm leaving behind. And somehow, I think when I stand before God, He won’t be all that interested in my excuses.
I summon the nurse, and a robust middle-aged woman appears. “What is it Katherine?”
“I’d like to call my daughter.”
The nurse smiles. “I’m so glad to hear you say that, sweetie, because we’ve already done it.”
Right on cue, a woman appears in the doorway, bearing a remarkable resemblance to me, as I looked at sixty. The nurse exits, leaving me alone with this familiar stranger—my daughter.
Vicki steps closer, eyes glistening with tears. Her skin is worn, evidence of a hard life.
I reach out and pull her closer. A sob bursts forth. “Vicki...”
“Mama..." She chokes up. “I’ve wanted to call you so many times. But I just couldn’t. Wouldn’t.”
I regard my daughter through watery eyes. “Sounds like you inherited your mother’s strong will.”
She chuckles. “I also inherited her strength. Putting up with me took a lot of it, that’s for sure.”
“I should have contacted you.” My voice is barely a whisper.
Vicki shakes her head. “We’ve both been stubborn. But we’ve got now.”
She’s right. As I reflect on my life, I know my choices caused me to miss out on years with my daughter we’ll never get back.
But, I’m choosing now to make the most of the time we have left.
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