It was a moment that haunted me for years. A stupid, idiotic, completely senseless act that could only be explained by a complete adolescent brain shutdown.
It was a Monday morning, the day after Mother’s Day, a school day. I was in eighth grade. I’ve always been a routine guy, even then, and I was going through my morning rituals, trying not to let anyone or anything mess up my personal timeline.
I was dressed and on schedule, all I had left to do was put on my socks and shoes. Then my mom came to my door. “Tim, can you please help me move the car out to the street?”
We were trying to sell our Regal, and since we lived on a high-traffic road, the best place to do that was simply at the end of our driveway. Now any normal eighth grade guy would jump at the chance to get behind the wheel of a car—especially with his parent’s permission. But not me. Oh, no. I was too concerned about what I had left to do, even though I still had time to spare.
But here’s a piece of the story that’s key. The reason my mom needed my help was because she couldn’t see well that morning. She needed me to steer the car. My mom was in the last stages of battling a brain tumor and was having problems with her vision. Yeah, I know. I was such a jerk. It gets worse.
So I reluctantly sat in my mom’s lap while she slowly gave the car gas and we made our way up the driveway. When we got close to the end, I told her to apply the brake, which she did. We locked up the car and got out.
Just then, the bus for the high school students pulled up across the street. And it was at that instance when my world grew so narrow that I was the only one in it. Realizing I was outside, without socks and shoes, with a bus full of high schoolers watching this eighth-grader, I ran back into the house, leaving my mom to find her way back in a blurry, pain-filled haze.
When I got inside, I put my socks and shoes on. My mom came inside, crying, asking why I left her to find her way back to the house on her own. She was embarrassed, left to walk inside in her gown and bathrobe.
Even now as I type this, years later, I can still feel the guilt and shame of my selfishness. Minutes later, I boarded the bus and went off to school.
That was the last day I saw my mom alive. Those were the last words we exchanged. She lost consciousness later that day and died during the night.
The should haves plagued me. There are so many things I wish I would have done differently. I would have went outside in Mickey Mouse pajamas in front of an entire high school if it meant that I could have done things differently. But there was no second chance. My mom was gone.
I lived with that guilt, that shame for years.
Then one day, I was talking with one of my mom’s best friends. We were reminiscing about my mom, and Cherie told me about her final conversation with my mom. She said that they had talked that day and that my mom told her about our driveway drama. Then she said something that pierced my heart. “Your mom laughed about what happened.”
She didn’t hate me. She didn’t resent me. She didn’t see me as a complete failure. She laughed. She saw the lunacy in my reaction and was able to find humor in it.
I still miss my mom. I wonder what she would be like now, what kind of grandma she would be to my kids, what she would think of my wife, what she would think of my life and accomplishments.
I know she’s in heaven. I know we’ll be reunited one day. I know all those things.
But one of the main things I know as well is that when I do get a chance to speak to her again, it will not be a past that has to be reconciled. She forgave me, and she still loved me—even when I did something that was unlovable.
© 2006 by Tim Walker