Forgive in Time for Turkey
"I've really never had a problem with forgiveness. I think of it this way, if I can forgive my dad for abusing me and my mom for abandoning me then I can pretty much forgive anyone for anything. Except... well there are some old friends of ours that I don't think I will ever be able to forgive. My husband forgave them years ago. For some reason he doesn't seem to mind what they did to me, to us, but I can't see how anyone could do what they did. They were supposed to be family and family just doesn't do that sort of thing to each other."
I sat curled up on the other end of the sofa from my dear friend Samantha as we sipped warm mugs of anise herbal tea. Samantha had quite the life story. As a child she was raised by a loving but alcoholic mother who tried to protect her daughter from men by making her look ugly. She instilled in her daughter a belief in God's love, a desire to learn, and a sense of beauty in all things except herself. She taught her daughter beautiful old ballads that the girl would sing to comfort herself during the days when her mother would disappear and the booze took over. Samantha loved her mother but was never able to reconcile the choice her mother made when she took her brothers and left her alone. No, it was worse than alone. Her mother, who tried so hard to keep her from the advances of men, left her with the one man who could hurt her worse than anyone, Samantha's father. A father who remarried an awful, abusive woman. A father who sexually, physically, verbally, and in every other way imaginable, abused his little girl until she reached the age of 16 and went to court to legally remove his rights to hurt her.
Despite all of this, Samantha had grown up to be successful, loving, never giving up on her dreams or the dreams of others, always ready to scoop a needing body into her arms to give the love that she had never been given herself. Knowing all this about my friend I had to find out what could have been so horrific, so evil, so cruel, that she couldn't give these singular friends the same forgiveness that she granted to all the other awful people who had tried to break her down.
"It was years ago. Daniel and I were newly married and trying to start a business together. We had these dear, wonderful friends, Todd and Rainee, and we were like a family. In fact we had made a pact with each other to that very effect. They knew my history and they took me in and told me that they would be the family I never had. And I believed them. Well, the four of us decided to go into buying a house together. We put everything we had into it. We were going to start a business together and run it out of the house. Everything was going just fine, I mean we had some ups and downs but nothing more than anyone should expect. I had a bad bout with my depression, but they had seen my depression before, they knew what to expect. And then, just months after getting the place all put together, they decided that it wasn't going to work, that they couldn't live with us. They bought us out of our half of the house, just like that. Just like that they were able to dump us. And they had the nerve to say they still wanted to be our friends, our family. How could they? Danny forgave them right away and they seem to still want to be friends with us but I can't do it. They seem shocked by my actions. My actions. As if they should be understood and forgiven for what they did. Families don't do that to each other. They don't stab you in the back and leave you out in the cold. I mean, I know my family did, but we weren't a real family. Our friends, and Daniel, and I had promised to be the best family to each other, to be there for each other no matter what. I know you are from a big loving family. They would never do something like that, would they!?!"
I had been listening with sincere concern, thinking up words of comfort, and several mean things I could say about her awful friends, trying to feel her pain and be ready to validate it, until she got to the part about my family. At that moment my pursed and thoughtful lips exploded with a force of ironic laughter that burst from the very depths of my gut. In that split second the concern I felt for her plight was dissolved in a fit of hilarious understanding. As scenes and memories flooded my brain in a matter of milliseconds I saw her mistake. Her big fat mistake. Because Samantha had never had a real family she had built up this ideal image of family life in her mind. She thought that real families never hurt each other, never break each others hearts, are always there for one another and never let you down. Ho boy, was she ever wrong about families.
Seeing the shock at my rude laughter on her face I choked and coughed as I tried desperately to stop that I might explain myself to her. "Oh, Samantha, is that what you really think family is all about? If only you really knew, you would see that your friends were acting just like real families do. You think my family hasn't ever had major fights, backstabbing, even disowning each other at times? Of course we do. We are all human, just because we are family doesn't mean we don't make mistakes and mess up royally on a daily basis."
Samantha stumbled over her words as she tried to grasp what I was saying, "But... you... your family, I mean, you are always... you love your family, you've told me so... how could..."
"Samantha, it all comes down to Thanksgiving."
"What?" I think she was starting to question my sanity and future validity as a friend.
"Thanksgiving. We, families, are always hurting each other. Why I could tell you stories just from my own wonderful family that would stand your hair on end. Oh, the ways we've hurt each other! But, because we are family, we have to forgive each other,because we know that every year we are going to have to sit down at that same table on Thanksgiving and face one another. It really is the only reason that families forgive each other for the awful things that we do to one another. You've forgiven your parents because you never have to see them again. And, sure, you can dump your friends and never forgive them, but me? Not me. I have to forgive because I know that I can't escape my family. Eventually I will have to face them for something. Whether it be a wedding, funeral, in court, at Christmas, or over the Thanksgiving turkey, I will have to be in the same room as my family and in order to survive that constant contact I have to forgive them. I mean, sure, something big might happen and it might take me several years to be able to forgive, but eventually I will want to sit at that big turkey table again and I will have to forgive in order to do so."
Samantha sat quietly for several seconds, taking large gulps of her tea, probably to help wash down all that she was trying to digest in such a short moment. Then she said, looking at the floor as if reading a cue card, "I... I guess I have a letter that I need to write." Then her eyes lifted and met mine with a new light of joy in them. "I'm sorry to leave so soon, Liz, but I really need to go. I don't want this to be my mistake any longer than it has to be. Who knows, maybe someday I will want to share Thanksgiving with my friends again, but I need to let them know I forgive them first."
With that she gave me one of her billowy, rose scented hugs and disappeared through my door. I smiled as I watched her go, and then I picked up the phone to call my sister. It was about time I called to apologize for the mean thing I had said to her last year. I hope she forgives me.
Time for another Scribbit WriteAway contest. This time she is giving away a year's supply of Suave products. I'm really hoping to win because I could probably buy a new car for the amount of money I spend on mousse to tame my frizzies every year. The theme is "Thanksgiving brought to you by the letter F." Hurry, you only have till midnight to get your entry in.