James sat in his easy chair, but he was feeling quite uneasy. It was midnight, almost seven hours since he got the news. The television was on, but the sound was muted. His hand was never empty. His fingers clutched Budweiser cans all evening. The only light in the room came from the intermittent flashes from the television screen as it glared off the beers he guzzled.
So Mommy is dying, he thought as stared blankly at the television screen.
He wasn’t watching the program; he was thinking back to his childhood. Back to the days when he was “spanked” for not being the good boy she envisioned. It wasn’t a regular spanking; it was a beating—torture for a small boy. He closed his eyes, wincing at the thought of his Dad’s belt making contact with his bare legs and ass. Tears hovered at the edge of his eyes, glistening with each flash of the screen. “No, I didn’t cry then, and I won’t cry now.” He crushed an empty can with one hand.
He closed his eyes and thought back to all those Sundays at church. Mommy was nice at church while sitting in her pew acting the part of a perfect wife, mother, and Christian. Only her family had ever seen the evil that dwelled inside her. Her whole life was a façade. She pretended to be a good, Christian woman, who lived only by the word of God, but James and his brother Tony knew the truth. They experienced the wickedness that was Mommy. Her wrath if they did not do exactly as she wished.
The phone rang several times. Jamie hesitated to answer. “Hello,” he finally said. It was Tony. “They really think she may not make it through the night? I don’t know how can you forgive her? Because I don’t know if I can, or If I even if I want to try. I might, but I’m not sure I have anything left to say to her. Okay…bye.”
James hung up the phone and sat in a daze wondering how Tony could be so compassionate to her, the woman who made their childhood hell. Maybe he can forgive, but James couldn’t. He tried several years ago to make peace with his mother. The scars of that conversation still stung as he remembered that day. The day he had awakened in the hospital after a horrible car accident.
His mother sat at his bedside, crying. Unsure of his fate, he said, “Mom, I forgive you for the beatings you used to give me and Tony. I know sometimes it can be hard being a parent.” Tears began to glisten in his eyes once more as he remembered her response. His mother glared at him and said, “James, I have no idea what you’re talking about. That head injury must be worse than your doctor thought.” She quickly stood up. “I’m going to go get some coffee. I’ll be right back, dear.”
James crushed another can. He picked up the phone, took a deep breath, and dialed Tony’s number. “Hey, it’s me. What room is she in? I do have some last words for her. Be there in a few minutes.”
James rose from his recliner, guzzled one more beer, and then crushed the can using all his strength. He opened the door, grabbed his jacket. He opened the car door but decided it best to walk the few blocks to the hospital since he was semi-drunk. As he walked, he thought over what he’d say to her and wondered if she’d even hear him or acknowledge his words. She had to. This was his last chance at letting it go, getting it all out.
As James rounded the corner to the hospital, he stopped several times to take a deep breath and regain his nerve. He had never stood up to her before. He went inside and found her room. Stopping outside her door, he peered into the window. Mommy never looked so helpless. She rested there with tubes in her nose and hooked up to all sorts of machines. He guessed they were keeping her alive—for now. Slowly, James turned the doorknob and tiptoed inside. He sat down in a chair beside her and touched her wrinkled hand. She looked so old and not at all the intimidating woman of his childhood. He leaned close to her right ear. “Mother, it’s me, James. I’m not sure if you can hear me, but there is something I have to say.”
James almost lost his nerve, but he reminded himself this was his last chance. “You may have fooled many with your act of the good, Christian mother, but you, I, and Tony all know the truth. And Tony and me, we still carry the scars inside, permanent scars. I tried to make peace with you once, but you wouldn’t admit your sins.” Her finger moved beneath his. “I’m going to try one more time. Momma, I forgive you for what you did to me and Tony because I do believe God wants us to turn the other cheek, and instead of denying the past, ask God to forgive you.”
Her hand slipped slightly from under his, but he held it tightly. “Momma, all those in heaven know. Maybe you can fool people here on earth, and maybe even yourself, but not God, not the angels in heaven. You should know that. I do love you, despite the past. Admit it Momma please, and ask for forgiveness before it’s too late.” James buried his face in her chest and sobbed.
Tony walked into the room and put his hand on James’s back. “Let it out, James. Just let it all go.”
“I have let it go, and I've said what I needed to say, Tony." James wiped the tears from his eyes with his jacket sleeve." But, I won’t sit here and watch her die. I won't play the role of the grieving, loving son who's going to misses his mother because I won't miss her. That would make me fake just like she was.” He hugged Tony and walked out the door.
James stepped outside the hospital and momentarily glanced back at the hospital doors. He breathed deep, inhaled the crisp night air, shoved his hand into his pants pockets, and walked home.