We had taken a trip to the Smokey Mountains with mom and dad. Our idea of fun on these sorts of trips is shopping at the outlet stores, walking around the specialty shops, going to the aquarium, and most of all; eating at the restaurants. Every time we go through, we always eat at the Apple Barn at least one morning. During this trip, Uncle Ron had called mom and asked her if we could meet with him while on our trip since he doesn’t live far from this area.
At first, she balked at the idea, but he pushed her and said, “You all are going to eat at Apple Barn, right? Well, let me pay for your meal and eat with you.” How could she refuse, a free meal, and without a rude excuse, no real reason to say no. So, we met Uncle Ron for breakfast that morning. I had to explain to the girls who this man was, he had never met them after all. “This is Grammy’s ex-husband, they got a divorce when I was a teenager, I haven’t really talked to him in years, just be nice and it will be fine” I said.
The girls of course were as loveable and cheerful as they have always been and took to Ron immediately. He was cautious though as if he wasn’t sure of himself around us now. Of course, he still had his laughable and gregarious nature about him, the one that makes people want to be around him, telling stories and laughing that full laugh he always had when I was growing up. But something else was there. A tinge of something quiet just on the edge of his voice. He was nervous around us. As we sat there, I couldn’t tell you anything he said. I was just staring at him; inside I was a fury of emotion. Several times I nearly had to get up and leave the table as I was becoming overwhelmed with emotion.
Breakfast ended and I don’t think I said ten words to the man. We walked out and Alicia was taking some pictures with the girls. Mom and dad were talking with Ron and it became time for him and us to leave. I suddenly felt a pang of need. “I’ll walk you to your car”, I said. We walked through the parking lot until we got to his car. We were standing there… not really saying much and I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I burst into tears and grabbed him in a hug. Holding him tight I sobbed uncontrollably, “I miss you, Uncle Ron… I miss you.” We were both crying now. “I don’t want to be angry anymore. I don’t want to be upset anymore. I just want you back.” I said. “I want that too!” He said. “If I can, I want to be your little girl’s grandpa if I can. I know I’ve missed a lot. I know that. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
We most likely stood there for 15 minutes. I don’t honestly remember what we said to each other, but it was a profound healing moment. A letting go of hurts and pain that had been compounding for years on both sides. I got in the car and discussed what had happened with mom, dad, and Alicia. They were skeptical, not sure if we should allow Ron back into our lives too easily. What would Grammy think about it? She had stayed with us throughout the years, not pushed us away, and had even been at my children’s births up to this point, holding them on their first day of life. I never wanted to do anything that would have hurt her. While I would ultimately call her and have a conversation with her about the experience and what it meant to me and to the future, for a while anyway, I just kept it to myself.
D. Michl Lowe