The Wages of Sin
As many people do who are beginning to let go of life, Will has become rather introspective lately, and a good deal of our conversations revolve around the things we regret having done, or not done (whatever the case may be). And as always when he goes deep, I’m surprised by how much thinking he really does.
Today it was “I wish I’d been better.” It’s a common theme now, and I have trouble understanding it because the ONLY thing he hasn’t been particularly good at was earning a living. He worked with his hands in a world that rewards those who work with their brains, and he didn’t adapt to modern life. He never learned to read or write well despite years of encouragement/bullying from me. And he never made ten bucks an hour in his entire life.
So what, I wanted to tell him. After we made it through the early years of poverty and the even tougher years of nursing school, I made enough for all of us. But I can’t seem to get him to stop apologizing, even though he worked his hind end off in bad conditions, and for horrible bosses, throughout most of his working years.
Which is sad, because this man taught our kids more about how to be good people—and good parents—than I ever did. He was the one with the energy to have fun with them, the one who was consistent, if more permissive than I believed was good for them. They always knew what to expect from him, and they were rarely disappointed. Most of all, he kept his promises—if he said he’d play with them, he did it instead of begging off at the last minute because he suddenly didn’t feel like it.
In fact, if anyone should apologize, it should be yours truly. To state the obvious, consistency has never been my strong suit—- neither as a mother nor as a wife—and everyone suffered for it. Oh, they all love me enough, and we’ve been able to repair the damages to our relationship over the years. But Will has been their rock, as well as mine, and his loss will leave a yawning hole in all of our hearts that no one (least of all myself) will ever be able to fill.
But he doesn’t want to hear my apologies. Doesn’t think I have anything to apologize for, even. There’s that unconditional love thing again—something I never knew existed until I met him—and it’s always blinded him to the fact that I am a deeply flawed human being. Today he told me again that I’ve been a good wife and that he couldn’t have asked for better; naturally, it was on the tip of my tongue to come back with something along the lines of setting his standards awfully low, but this time I merely said “Thank you” and kissed his forehead, the way I do when I’m feeling particularly affectionate.
An expression of contentment passed over his still-handsome face as he nodded off to sleep, and I knew that had been exactly the right thing to say. He doesn’t need to hear my self-recriminations now, because this isn’t about me……it’s about his need to complete the circle of life with peace in his heart, and to express his gratitude for the love we’ve shared for so many years.