“Every encounter with forgiveness requires defeating the ego over and over again.”
Two nights ago at dinner, my granddaughter bore down on me in anger. I don’t remember her words, but I see her face, eyes cold, lips pursed and spitting words. Shouting as if I were her thirteen year old adversary instead of her seventy-three year old grandmother, she was relentless. Mean. Melting inside, I sat tall, found what I hoped was a soft but firm voice and said, “N., go to your room.” She pushed back her chair, rose silently, and walked from the dining room. A day passed without our speaking or seeing one another, although we lived in the same house. This morning before leaving for an early morning yoga class, I offered a ride to the bus stop. She accepted.
Driving, I asked about yesterday’s cross-country ski meet, her dance lesson, each question a slick of ice covering the deep pool of our discontent. This was not the time to address her disrespect, her tone of voice. This was a time for both of us to take a breath and to reflect, consciously or not. My grand daughter talked openly and energetically about the meet—she fell down three times, but that didn’t matter. She had fun. In her dance class, she was learning a routine. “You start down on the floor,” she said, then reciting each move, she explained how each dancer rose to her feet.
At the bus stop, I shifted the car into park. We sat in silence, but not uncomfortably. “I’m sorry, Grammy,” my grand daughter said, her voice soft and contrite.
I don’t remember what else she said. Perhaps, I didn’t need to hear more. Turning to face her, my voice grew thick. “We love each other very much, don’t we?”
Because I’m preparing for my Bat Mitzvah, I’m thinking deeply about moments like this one. What are the values I want to pass on? Atonement? Yes. Forgiveness? Yes. But how do you forgive when your ego won’t let go, insisting instead of holding onto hurt? Anger’s doppelganger is fear. Afraid to reveal vulnerability, we hide inside of anger’s hard shell. We need to stick out necks, but hiding feels safer. It’s not. Anger leaves a path strewn with destruction. Stepping out of anger and ego, we step into a place of humility and of harmony. Love springs forth as it did for Nina and me. So what do I want our family to value now and after I’m gone? That extra breath where the ego gives way and we draw forgiveness into our lungs.