The four of us sat in the dining room of the nursing home. Two of us had cars in the parking lot; we were free to leave any time. The other two occupied wheelchairs because their legs would not support the weight of their bodies and their minds would not support a plan as simple as how to exit the building.
I was one of the ones who would be leaving. Usually I am the only non-resident who is sitting at my mother’s table in the dining hall, but this day the daughter of another lady had come to visit. The two of us carried on a conversation between the bits and pieces of attention that we gave our mothers, those bits and pieces being all our mothers could receive.
Then, out of the blue, the other daughter made a statement. “This one,” she said, as she gestured with a sideways nod toward her mother. (“This one”! Had she just called her mother “this one”? I thought.) “Kept a perfect house,” the other daughter continued. “Beds had to be made every morning. Twice a year we had to clean everything from the ceilings to the floors.”
I looked at the woman’s mother. She is younger than my mother by 15-20 years, but oxygen tubes trailed from her nostrils. My mother, who is now 99 years old, was going strong 15-20 years ago. The lady with the oxygen tubes was oblivious to her daughter’s comment. My mind scanned its reservoir of information, searching for an appropriate response to the other daughter’s comment. (My knee-jerk reaction was, I wish my childhood home had been tidier; but I did not tell her that. My next thought was, I wonder if my children think I cared too much about the cleanliness and order? But, of course, I didn’t air that question either.) The moment passed for lack of feedback, and the conversation moved in another direction.
Soon the visit ended. It was time for my mother’s nap. I exited the building to my car in the parking lot. In the car on the way back to accomplish the rest of my list of errands, my thoughts were drawn back to the table in the dining hall. Is there anybody who wishes his or her childhood was different, and therefore, better?
It is impossible to make a perfect home, to be a perfect mother, or to be a perfect child. But that’s what our minds seem to be set on: Perfect. We really think we can accomplish perfect, or we can go through life “bent out of shape” because our childhood home was not the version of perfect we were longing to have. I know there are varying degrees of imperfection, and some people have huge hurdles to overcome.
However, we have a heavenly Father who covers us in grace. After Adam and Eve sinned, God covered them with the skins of animals. Those animals were the first creatures to know death. That act of love was a foreshadowing of the supreme act of covering with grace by the death of God’s Son, Jesus, on a cross.
God’s grace is the only way we can break the cycle of hurt—anger—hurt—anger—hurt. We might not be able to control very much in our lives, or accomplish a long list of achievements. But, we can accomplish—I believe—the greatest achievement. We can be the generation in our family that chooses to break those negative cycles for our family. We do this by forgiving and “covering each other with grace.”
~A.R. (Alice) Cecil