I got a phone call yesterday. Actually, I got a voicemail because as soon as I saw the area code of the caller, I got chills and couldn't move to answer it even if I wanted to.
I waited for the voicemail notification, staring at the phone the entire time. I was sitting downstairs in the Mom Cave at the sewing machine, and the phone was sitting beside the machine as I worked. When the notification chimed, I picked up the phone, called the voicemail, and somehow entered my code with my hands shaking.
"Good morning, Amy! This is S, Jeff's father. I'm calling because I need to talk with you. I know it's been a long time and there's been some issues and so forth but anyway, I'm trying to reach out. I need to make some amends and I'd really like to hear from you. I'd appreciate it very much. I've been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and enough is enough. We need to make some peace here so anyway I hope things are well. My wife keeps track of you on the internet and she just says that you're just such a lovely mother and I believe that. Anyway when it's convenient, and if you don't, I understand too. I just would like to talk with you. Anyway, I hope it warms up there in Kansas. Give me a call. Please. Bye."
My first reaction was extreme anger. Then sadness. Pain. Anger. Devastation. Confusion. Intense sadness. Disbelief. Anger.
I screamed and yelled and cried and stomped around the house and sobbed and collapsed in the middle of the living room floor.
How dare he do this? Why now? What gives this man the right to call me and "make amends"???
I called The Dude and told him what happened. I forwarded the voicemail to him so that he could hear it. He asked me the Million Dollar Question: What are you going to do?
I've gone round and round and round in my head about it. I've listened to the message dozens of times. And here is my response:
First of all, I'm sorry to hear about your diagnosis. Cancer is a truly horrible disease, and I don't wish it on anyone.
I have not stopped thinking about how to handle this since the second that I saw your number come up on my phone. I thought about ignoring it and just not responding, but realistically - that gives you closure. You get to say "well, I tried" and pat yourself on the back. I thought about calling you back and telling you exactly how I feel, but I know that wouldn't end well. You would try to manipulate me and tell me again how everything was all my fault like you've done in the past, and I wouldn't be able to say what I wanted to say. Maybe a public blog post isn't the best way to handle it, but I don't have your address so I can't send you a letter - and this way it's "out there" so that everyone can see exactly what I said.... because I have nothing to hide.
Just to refresh your memory, it's been more than 5 1/2 years since you've bothered to contact me. To be precise, I told Jeff to leave for the final time 5 years, 6 months, and 2 days ago - and you never bothered to contact me since before then. You never called to make sure that Daniel was ok or to see if he needed anything. You wrote him off, just like the rest of your family did.
Even after I made it clear that you could have a relationship with Daniel, you chose not to. You continued to ignore him. Worse, you and/or your family made it your mission to make our lives more difficult. The decisions made by you and your family destroyed everything that I had and everything that I was for a while.
But now..... after all of this time..... you want to make amends.
Why? Because you're dying.
Think about that. You're not doing it because it's the right thing to do or because you miss your grandson, but because you're dying. You didn't even mention him in your voicemail - it was all about you and your need to make amends. It's not about anyone else but you. You think that if you do this now, you'll get your Get Into Heaven Free card.
You could have done this any time in the last 5 1/2 years, but no. You chose to wait until the last minute, giving me a guilt-laden ultimatum to make you feel better about yourself.
I have news for you.
You lost your chance.
I have done nothing in the last 5 1/2 years but put my kids first. I have fought tooth and nail to give them the life that they deserve. We have struggled to rebuild what we lost after we lost Jeff, and we did it without your help. We have moved on, we have grown up, and we have learned what is truly important in life. I am not the same person that I was back then. I don't allow myself to be trampled anymore. I don't hide my feelings, and I'm not afraid to tell you exactly what I think of you.
You have done nothing for Daniel. Nothing. You have not been there for him. You have not shown him love or respect or anything but indifference. You have only shown him that he is not worth anything to you or anyone else in your family.
The good news is that he has a huge family who does love him. He has a dad now - one who he has chosen and one who loves him as a dad should. He has siblings and grandparents and cousins and crazy aunts and uncles who love him as he deserves to be loved - and they won't turn their backs on him.
You chose not to have that. You chose to wait until the last minute, hoping that I would feel bad enough for you to give into you and give you what you expect - but it's not going to happen. Maybe I'll regret this decision some time in the future - but then I'll remind myself that it wasn't me who turned my back 5 1/2 years ago.
It wasn't Daniel's fault. It wasn't my fault.
It was you. It was your family. It was your choices.
So there you go. You reached out. You tried. Good for you.
And I told you what I think. Good for me.
I guess we both got something out of this.