I wonder what it feels like not to have ever been the little boy all dressed up in his best clothes, standing in front of the picture window for hours staring at the big circular drive, waiting for the car with Mom and Dad to come cruising in in a big plume of that red alabama/georgia clay dust. Waiting all through the day until it gets dark outside, just standing there and looking through that window, waiting and waiting for that car that never comes while his possessive grandmother mock-kindly keeps telling him to go get changed, go play, they're not really coming after all. Hearing the satisfaction that she thinks is secret, because she never wanted them to come in the first place.
Sometimes I think that I've really moved on from that sad little boy, and hey, just because I'm pathologically afraid of being stood up, and just because I start getting incredibly anxious as though someone is an hour late before they're five minutes late, it doesn't mean anything really. It's just this little thing; just a minor hangup. It's not like I blame them, or even show it at all, if they really are just five or ten minutes late. I've learned to compensate. I'm okay. That's not me anymore.
But then I find myself lying on the couch in my front room, reading a novel in the sunlight streaming through the window. And it's supposed to be a funny story, but I'm crying and crying and crying because it's talking about people being there for one another when they need each other. And of course the phone starts ringing off the hook for business, and while I can get my breathing and voice under control on command, I'm so snotted up from bawling that I have to pretend I have this horrible head cold. And then I realize that sad little boy is still in my head, and while I'm lying there reading, he's standing there in front of me, staring through the window, not seeing the cracked pavement and oil stains of the parking lot, but a big circular dirt drive with nobody in it. And I try to tell him everything's going to be okay, but all he hears is a long-dead grandmother hovering right behind his shoulder, self-satisfiedly telling him that no one will ever come. And I want to give him the cell phone in my pocket, but it has no place in his world, where the rotary phone is hard-wired into the wall, and the grandmother behind him will never pick it up for him, because everything's just the way she wants it already.
I forgave my mother, for this and other things, a long, long time ago. She's a wonderful person and was herself as much a victim of circumstance as anyone ever has been, and has truly been, and still is, one of the best parts of my life. (Ironically, she called me immediately after I typed that sentence - and I was glad that it, too, was there to read to her over the phone.) As for my dad, there were plenty of other, better, and newer issues to deal with on his part. And while I have forgiven him for pretty much all of them, he hasn't ever really been a part of my adult life, because he never made the effort to be one, and I finally quit making any myself. I made what peace I could with the grandmother after her last stroke, a week or so before she died, holding her hand and trying to rub some of the hurt out of the arm with the 24 hour IV in it, and out of the side that she could no longer move at all. She couldn't speak at all, but she looked at me a lot. I don't know what she was thinking, or what she was wishing she could say when she was making the only sounds she could with what the stroke had left her, but I hope she got what she needed; that in her own mind, at least, she made the connection that she wanted to make.
I don't know what's ever going to become of that little boy, though. Until today, I didn't realize he was still so much there, and still so sad.