How to Forgive

I visited my daughter and her family this afternoon. Quick visit. You know how it is—we’re all really busy with whatever the hell it is we think we need to do. Or we’re too exhausted from doing it to spend a little time visiting.

Ryan is out front, building a radio on the back of his pickup truck, still a little tired from his 24-hour shift at the fire department. I walk over to give him a hug and am granted a grin. He has the best smile. The broad lawn is mowed and edged, a ginormous American flag is flapping in the breeze, and his pear and apple trees have been relieved of their fruit—a truckload full! He doesn’t really look up from his work, but he tells me that his greens are growing well and that he’ll be with us for Thanksgiving. He’s planning on it. That makes my heart smile.

Inside, my grandchildren—Jacob and Ayla—are having lunch. Magdalen is beautiful in her church clothes, with her long dark hair and sweet smile. I admire her necklace. She gives me a real hug, and I inhale her. She has chicken-and-biscuits going on in the crockpot, and it smells delicious. We talked just yesterday, but we have our mother-daugher banter, and she tells me about her latest foray into juicing and how good it makes her feel. I must try it, and this is the juicer I should buy! I watch while she makes me a frosty beverage of greens, apples, carrots, ginger, lemon and cucumber. I wish I had brought her some Meyer lemons from our tree. The juice is delicious and refreshing. She is refreshing.

I turn my attention to the children. Jacob is going on nine, and his baby sister, Ayla, is 17 months. He is active and boisterous and full of questions that haven’t been answered. She is petite and angelic and very proud of her new skills. She shows me how she can toddle around, lifting her skirt up a bit to give me a glimpse of her chubby legs. She gives me a shy smile, I laugh and praise her, and Jacob beams with pride. He melts. He is hers. We all are!

I watch them play a game together. It’s their own game, and they know it. He lays on the wood floor, and she sits over him, babbling and gesturing like an Italian grandmother making gravy. Ha! I watch Jacob, and he patiently allows her to lift his shirt up, bang on his belly with her fat little hands, and then put his shirt back down. He tells me that she is fixing him, and she giggles. I start to relax, watching them play, feeling their love. “J!” she says, and he takes her chubby little hand in his. I hope their love lasts forever. Like I love my brothers. Like my daughters’ love for one another.

Magdalen asks Jacob to get Ayla’s favorite riding toy—her puppy. She says it’s so cute, and I need to see! Jacob jumps up from the floor, where he’s playing with Ayla, who is tentatively standing over him, hair bow askew, binky in hand. And in his zeal for the puppy riding toy, he knocks his baby sister over on her head! She screams and cries, and I scoop her up and give her a thousand kisses and assure her that she’s okay. Jacob gets a bit of a scolding for being impulsive, for not being careful, but he’s already traumatized from hurting her. He withdraws. He tries to disappear. His eyes get big and sad, and he feels horrible. And it’s just the way that I feel when I hurt someone. Horrible. My heart tugs, and I give him a look and a hug. He hangs on me for an extra minute, which is more than you can expect from a little boy. He smells like grass and sunshine and hope.

With her mother’s ministrations and whispers, Ayla calms down in a minute. Her tears are dried, her bow is straightened. She forgets that her head hurts. She gets over the shock. And with a little encouragement, Jacob goes and gets her riding puppy, with its big floppy ears. If you push the puppy’s nose, he sings a song. Ayla, settled on the puppy’s back, her feet resting on his paws, gives me a wet, toothy grin. Jacob recovers, too. He takes his position behind her and gently guides her around the living room. Around and around. Ayla laughs and says, “Wheee!” Jacob just thinks she’s the best.

On the way home, I see acres of corn, their husks drying in the Florida sun. I see the little country church, its warning on the billboard by the highway. I pick up chicken feed from Tractor Supply. I start to get busy again. But there’s an atom, a new thing, in my heart. And it makes me feel small and grand at the same time. I realize it only took a split second for Ayla to forgive Jacob for knocking her flat on her head. She didn’t worry about whether he meant to hurt her or not. She just forgave him. And he immediately accepted her forgiveness. A thousand kisses and a little boy’s love. And they will carry on.

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