“Remember when we were little and we would accidentally bite a kid on the playground? Our teachers would go, “say you’re sorry.” We would say it, but we wouldn’t mean it. Because the stupid kid we bit…totally deserved it. But as we get older, making amends isn’t so simple. After the playground days are over, you can’t just say it. You have to mean it.”Of course, ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t’ always cut it, maybe because we use it so many different ways…as a weapon…as an excuse. But, when we are really sorry…when we use it right? When we mean it? When our actions say what words never can. When we get it right, ‘I’m sorry’ is perfect. When we get it right, “I’m sorry” is redemption." -Grey’s Anatomy
One more chance…that is all I wish I had. Twelve years ago this fall, I lost my Papa. From the age of three to the age of ten, he was my world. He made me the best tuna sandwiches. He let me ride on his riding lawn mower. He always had candy. He always did something special and memorable with me. To this day, I still miss watching football with him. I miss the smell of his cigarettes. I miss the smell of his cologne. I miss his smile, his life, his hair…it always look like he had bed head.
I was unaware of my Papa’s alcohol problem until Grandma had to come live with us. He had turned into a mean, abusive, hateful man. I did not recognize the man that he had turned into. Grandma lived with us for three years and maybe a year or two later Papa died. He drank himself to a mere 80 pounds. He died in a veteran’s hospital bed, in my Grandma’s arms. Two days prior to him passing, my mother made my brothers and I go up to the hospital to say “good-bye.”
I was fourteen. I had just moved to a new city. I was going to be in a new school. I was not in a happy place to begin with. My mom walked us to his room. There in the bed, laid a child. My Papa was this tiny yellow, wrinkled ball of nothing. I understand now that he was yellow because of the liver damage due to years of excessive drinking.
My mom lifted my brothers up first to kiss him on the cheek and say good-bye. They were escorted out by my great Aunt Anne. I was next. He grabbed my hand and slowly pulled him towards him. He quietly whispered, “Jennifer Lynn…I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I love you.” I kissed him on the cheek and walked out of the room.
To this day, I regret not letting him know I forgave him. To this day, I regret not letting him know I loved him too. He was on his death bed, his last “sorry” was his redemption.
This isn’t an easy story for me to tell. I have to fight and choke back tears every time I think back to this moment in my life. Maybe at fourteen, I was just no good at saying sorry.
From the moment we are able to speak and understand, saying “sorry” is a part of life whether we mean it or not. It is true that as adults, our playground days are over and we have to mean it. Holding on to guilt, regret, tension, anger, love, passion, hate…will do you no good. Let “I’m sorry,” be your redemption like it was for my Papa.
To the girl I mistreated in grade school: I’m sorry.
To my brother, Mike: I’m sorry for being hateful to you as kids.
To my brother, Matt: I’m sorry for being “motherly” toward you. I only mean well.
To my Papa: I’m sorry. I love you. I forgive you.
To my friend: I’m sorry I hurt you.
To my cousin: I’m sorry I left things the way I did. Hopefully, we can repair the past and move on to a good future.
To the boy in my 10th grade math class: I’m sorry for leaving that anonymous love note from a secret admirer. It was cruel of me.
Remember, to mean it when you say “sorry.” Get it right, and redeem yourself.