Cole was mad at his father.
I am not sure what happened.
Cole would not say. But his lip was poked out and he was not speaking to him.
“You sure you don’t want to talk about it?” I questioned.
Usually, Cole jumps at a chance to talk about his feelings. He can get down and discuss his reasoning and logic behind the deepest emotions better than Freud.
He shook his head.
“I don’t want to say a word about how hurted I am with that man right now,” he said solemnly.
That was understandable. When I am deeply hurt, I usually don’t want to talk about it. Not even to Mama.
“You think you will feel better later?” I asked.
He shook his head again. “I don’t know. This may take a while.”
I wondered what the transgression had been – Cole once got upset at his father when he thought Lamar had disrespected the piggies, but Cole had been quite vocal about that. This time, he was silent as to the offense and his feelings.
“What did you do?” I asked Lamar.
He didn’t know what he had done – it could have been a dozen little minor things but to Cole, whatever it was, it had added up to be big.
“Mama, do you ever forgive Daddy?” was Cole’s question an hour later.
“Forgive him for what?”
“Anything. Everything. He makes you angry a lot. So do you forgive him?”
I can nurse a grudge better than anyone. I have practically elevated it to an art form in some ways. It was genetic.
To this day, you could say certain people’s names and Granny’s eye would bulge as she uttered a curse under her breath.
Mama was the same way. Her normal benevolent, peace-loving, hippie ways would come to a grinding halt the minute certain people were mentioned.
So it was natural for me to hold to unforgiveness like a safety blanket. I have a list – yes, I do – of people who had run out of second, third, fourth and 12th chances with me. Or as Granny would say, “I’ve washed my hands of them,” which is southern talk for “they’re dead to me.”
“I’ve forgiven Daddy,” I said. I think I have; not sure which offense Cole was referencing.
He looked up at me, his big blue eyes searching mine. “You did?”
I nodded. “Yes, Cole, I am not holding any anger or unforgiveness toward Daddy.”
“What about when he broke your bowl?” he asked.
“I forgave him.”
“What about that nice antique plate you had on the sideboard?”
I didn’t know about that. But it wouldn’t do any good getting upset about now, after the fact, would it?
“Cole, I know it’s natural to want to hold on to those things that hurt us – they remind us to not let someone hurt us again. But at some point, we have to let it go. If we don’t, it’s like drinking a poison and expecting it to hurt them when it’s us it hurts.”
I could tell he was digesting this as he planned his rebuttal. “What if I can forgive, but I can’t forget?”
“I am guilty of that. I can remember every single wrong and offense that has ever happened to me. I carry it around like some badge of honor. I try to make myself believe that it keeps me from getting hurt again but the truth is, it doesn’t. We have to be able to let it go, so we can move forward.”
“So if you don’t forget, you stay stuck?” he asked.
“Pretty much,” I replied. “If you keep playing over the same old hurts, it doesn’t do much but remind you of some pretty miserable things. I would rather focus on the happy, wouldn’t you?”
“I guess so,” was his answer as he went off to think this all over, leaving me with my thoughts of forgiveness.
I had read somewhere once that forgiveness didn’t mean what happened was okay, it simply meant we were not allowing it to cause us pain and control us anymore. I wondered if Cole would understand what that meant.
I thought about how carrying the unforgiveness was really a pretty heavy burden too. There was a lot of work in rehashing the reasons why I was not speaking to someone or why I refused to acknowledge any goodness in a person. It was exhausting. Maybe, it was time to let that all go once and for all. But how? I had cultivated a nature of grudginess.
“Best Daddy Ever!” I heard Cole call as he ran through the back door, escaping the chill to get warm.
“I thought you were mad at Daddy?” I asked.
“That was yesterday. I forgave him,” he said.
“What were you mad at him about?” I asked.
Cole smiled and reached up to touch my face.
“Oh, sweet girl,” he began, “that doesn’t matter, does it? It’s over now and all forgotten.”
With a burst of energy, he was off in search of his next adventure with his father.
And just like that, the transgression had been wiped clean and forgotten. Amazing.
I should try that, I thought to myself. Right after I find out about what happened to that antique plate.