Veteran’s Day was one of those days fraught with the potential for yelling. The kids didn’t have school, but I had to work. How difficult would it be to cram my job into a few hours so that I could be present to and with them for the others? I managed to clear a couple of hours in the morning. We went to paint pottery, specifically ornaments for the grandparents.
The painting was somewhat frustrating, and Whit had a hard time with the small, detailed work of writing his name with a paintbrush. We muddled through, though, and after a while it was time to go. Grace and Whit cleaned up while I took our painted ornaments to the kiln pile. The children were picking out lollipops and I was paying when I noticed that our table was still strewn with paper towels, half-filled water cups, and a wet paint brush. Frustrated, I went to clean off the table.
As we walked out of the store, I vented my dismay at Grace and Whit. I told them sternly that I was disappointed. And then Grace, not looking, stepped into the busy street as cars approached. I yelped and grabbed her arm, panicked. The morning’s happy mood disintegrated with lightning speed. As we drove home toxic clouds of aggravation filled the car. Suddenly I was in a terrible mood. Isn’t it amazing how fast things can change? In both directions, indeed.
We got home and I stalked upstairs to my desk. Intellectually, I knew I had overreacted but I was prickling all over and felt overwhelmed with irritation and frustration. I answered work emails in silence. I heard Whit puttering with the Legos in the other room. After a solid twenty minutes he crept in and offered me a green flower made out of Legos and a hand-written note.
I love you more than Legos and books combined. I hope you know I’m sorry for not helping you clean up. Love Whit
I began to bawl. This is what love is, I thought.
I asked him to come into my office and he did, gingerly. I pulled him onto my lap, which is awkward now because he is so long. I buried my head in his shoulder, crying. I apologized, and after a few minutes we went down to Grace’s room. She too had written me an apology. I sat on her bed, a child on each side of me, tears running down my face. I told them I was sorry. I told them I had overreacted and I had been wrong. “The two of you make me a better person,” I said, and I meant it. I want to be worth of their devotion, their faith, their love. The redemptive power of their willingness to abide with me, even when I am wretched, was tangible in the room.
“Should we start this day over?” Grace asked.
“No, I don’t think so. It was a really nice day until the last hour. Maybe we should just erase an hour,” Whit offered. I nodded.
We decided to go out to get burritos and as we drove we talked about forgiveness and the ability to move on. I’ve told them many times, and I firmly believe, that this – the ability to put something behind you, to say I’m sorry and mean it, to start fresh – is one of the true keys to happiness. It is unrealistic to imagine that we won’t all have bad days, with yelling and irritation and black moods. But being able to roll through those, devotion and affection intact, to forgive and to move on?
That is where true love lives.
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