Fiction Drama Coming of Age

The box was small and dark. I hated going in there.I hated the darkness but every Friday I didn’t have a choice. I made it to the front of the line and waited my turn. In my head I was thinking of the things that I was required to say when the door opened to the box and the person before me stepped out. I really didn’t have anything to say but that would not do. You were expected to say something once you entered the box and the door  closed. I wiped my wet sweaty  hands on my uniform skirt and tugged at the bottom of my sweater. Suddenly it was my turn. The girl before me had come out clutching her rosary and heading for the pews in the  middle of the church. She was whispering a prayer as she passed me. I pulled back the curtain to the box slowly and entered. I kneeled down in front of the small black window and heard it open. A dark face appeared in the window. I couldn’t make out the identity of the man but when he started to talk I knew who it was. 

“Bless me Father for I have sinned.”  Those were the words I was told to repeat every time I entered the black box.  I confessed my childhood sins for the week. I told the man in the box that I pulled my sister's hair, disobeyed my mother, and stole a piece of candy from my brother and lied about it. After all, I was only 8 years old how much sinning could I have done? The priest behind the window told me that I was forgiven and for my penance I had to say six hail Mary’s and two Our Father’s. I exited the black box and headed to the pews in the church to start my penance. 

I often think of those days when I had to enter the black box to confess my sins. I did it for many years. When I grew up I gave up the black box of forgiveness.  Today I sat in front of my aging mom and asked her to forgive a daughter who should have done better.

K. K. is my mom’s nickname. Her name is Katie Rose Kali.  Everyone called her K.K. those who didn’t call her mom or auntie. K.K. was born in a time where there was more going on in the world than even today. It was hard for me to believe that back then could be harder than today but from my mom’s stories it definitely was. I heard the stories about discrimination, marches, segration, how her parents moved from the south to here to California to   find a better life for their kids, how my grandmother struggled to make ends meet for the family and how my grandfather was quite the ladies man causing drama to her mother yet he was the best provider he could be at the time. I listened to all the stories and logged them in my memory to some day tell my children and grandchildren if I was lucky enough to have them. 

I was the daughter who left home at an early age, got involved with the wrong man, had his babies and in the end he left me as my mom predicted and I crawled back home with my tail between my  proverbial legs and two babies under the age of 2. I thought I knew everything back then and clearly I did not. I went from boyfriend to boyfriend with no regards to my children who for the most part stayed with my mother. She was their mother when I couldn’t be or didn’t have the sense to be. I was wild and young and my kids were just in the way of me being free. For years my mom mothered my kids and she tried to mother me as much as I would let her which was not much. I was determined to live my life on my own terms. Meanwhile, I was missing life. In the blink of two eyes my children were not children any more and my mom was not the young grandmother any more. They had grown  up and changed and I had missed it.

My mom aged gracefully. She still  had a fire in her soul that would tell you what she thought about you in a second and didn’t care if you liked it or not. That was K.K. She is stubborn and feisty and would move the biggest mountain for her kids and grandkids and now great grand kids. Now she sits silent. Her words don’t come too often anymore. The fire once in her eyes has dimmed and on a good day she will call your name. She sits in the chair that she once said was as uncomfortable as sitting on a brick when it was new. Her body sinks into the same chair  now with ease. She doesn’t remember the stories she once told me nor does she remember how to feed herself or dress herself. When you speak to her she sometimes nods in agreement and other times she will just sit and try to remember who you are. The light is dimming more and more each day. The passing of each day seems sadder now and longer. 

Pain is a constant struggle now and tons of medicines are by her bedside for various things. But there is no medicine to bring her back  to the woman she once was. There is no magic pill she can take to remember herself and her children. There are no pills to bring back the fire in her eyes and the fisteyness in her voice. No pills to make her get off that chair and cook a dinner that burns the back of your throat because she used just too much chili powder for your liking. There is no pill she can take so she can order us all to the car for the traditional Sunday drives to the marina or to her brother’s house. Now she sits and sits and waits. 

I am waiting too. I have been waiting for better days for the past six years. Days that aren’t going to come but I had incredible hope that a miracle would happen. I believed in miracles until that day when she got that horrible diagnosis of dementia, the soul sucking disease which takes everything from you. 

This day I kneeled in front of my mom as I washed her tired feet and I confessed to her and nobody else. I didn’t need the dark black box with the priest on the other side. It was just me and her. I told her I was sorry that I was not the daughter that she wanted me to be. I was sorry that I blamed her when daddy died. I know it was not her fault. It was his choice to die. He just didn’t want to be here anymore but I blamed her. I blamed her for something that she must have done to make it so. I was sorry for not including her in my life after I moved from home. I was sorry for not calling more often and ignoring her calls. I was sorry that I was so ignorant to her feelings and needs. Yes, I sent the obligatory Mother’s day cards and Christmas cards but never gave her what she wanted the most. I never gave her my presence or my love. I was sorry that when my brother was born I judged her because I thought she was too old. I was sorry when I saw the tears roll down her face. I made no effort to ease her pain and wipe away her tears. I only made her cry more worrying about me. I wish I could take that worry away now. I wish that I could take the pain away. I wish I could go back in time and do it all over again.  I was so sorry that she had to take the burden of raising my children and her own and I was sorry that I could not see all the goodness in her heart and the joy in her voice until it was gone. I could never do enough penance for those sins.   I was sorry for all the unnecessary arguments that met nothing now and most of all I was sorry that this stupid disease stole her life and there was nothing I could do to bring that fire back, to bring her life back. I laid my heavy head on her lap and cried. We both cried together.  I cried until I could not cry anymore.  My tears were a symbol of pain not for myself but for her. I lifted my head to look into my mother’s eyes and she lifted her hands and touched my hands which I placed  on her knees and whispered the four little words that met so much. “I forgive you child.” 

That day , that hour, that second, I started to believe in miracles again.

October 20, 2021 16:27

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