I have a box of treasured mementos on the top shelf of my closet. An eclectic gathering – each representing a fragment of my life. One of the items in my box is a photo of my brothers and I - taken when we were children . We’re lined up on the swing set in our backyard; squinting in the late afternoon sun and smiling for the camera.I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled that picture out of the box over the years, holding it in my hands as tears filled my eyes.
Tears of sadness and regret.Tears of longing.
Tears of wishing it could have been different.
Oprah Winfrey once defined forgiveness as giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.
I have done that for myself. I have accepted my past; the absence of my father, the conflicted relationship with my mother and everything in between because I can truly and sincerely say I came out a better person for it. I didn’t fall into the familial pattern of addiction, alcoholism or abuse or pass it on to my children.But I can’t say the same for my brothers, it’s there for each of them in some way, shape or form - especially my baby brother, who after outrageous accusations followed by six years of absolutely no contact with me, suddenly calls me last week.
I missed the initial call – and after listening to his message on the answering machine, said (ok – I admit it - cynically) to my husband, “he’s either found God or AA, and/or he needs money.”So I call him back and he’s found God and sobriety and asks for my forgiveness.
And I tell myself he is my little bro.And I love him – despite and in spite of everything.
Family is everything to me.
And he knows that.
How can I deny him another chance?
So I say yes.
I want to believe he’s changed.That there are no ulterior motives.
It is what it appears on the surface.
That he’s missed me as much as I’ve missed him.
I tell him I didn’t do the things he accused me of doing.He tells me that’s not important – and we aren’t going to bring up the past because it’s too painful.
It is painful. But it’s also important. To me.
Forgiveness as giving up the hope that the past could have been any different and accepting it as it is or was. I’ve done that in almost every situation. But I haven’t forgotten it.
In Al-Anon 12 Step circles, there is a question to ask oneself when dealing with unresolved resentment; “do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”I want to be happy.
I want my brother back in my life.
But ….. I also want vindication.
(Bowing my head somewhat ashamed)I do.
Not for the past, but for the present.
I do want to bring it up and talk about it because it’s still hanging out there – untethered.I want him to take back what he accused me of doing.
I want him to admit he wronged me so I can be righted.
Because as it ended up it wasn’t just between us - other family members turned against me to take his side, and it all got really, really ugly.
And broke my heart.
So here I am.Searching my heart and my soul.
Praying to be given whatever I need to be given to do the right thing, regardless of the rights or wrongs of the past.
And my phone rings.It’s my brother.
He needs money.
A substantial amount of money.
And I start crying.Because I suddenly realize I didn’t want to be right at all when I told my husband, “he’s either found God or AA, and/or he needs money.”
I wanted to be happy.I just wanted my brother back.
Without ulterior motives on either part.
Because he’s missed me as much as I’ve missed him.
So I said yes.Because from the moment they were born, they belonged to me and it was my job to take care of them.
Old habits die hard.
I took the photo out of my box and held it in my hands as tears filled my eyes. I kissed my finger and put it to each face, before tucking it back away on the top shelf of my closet.
I don’t know how this will play out now any more than I have in the past when I’ve searched those smiling faces for clues. All I know is that for right now, we are all present and accounted for in each other’s lives and I will let that be enough.
Time will fill in the rest.