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I'm Sorry to Say

By Heather McLeod All Rights Reserved ©



I’m sorry to say, but you’ll make mistakes. You’ll break your promise and cry your eyes out a week before Christmas, but you’ll never work harder in your life than to make your mother proud. I promise that the next promise you make will be one you keep.

I'm Sorry to Say

Dear My Younger Self,

Do you remember that morning, when you were still so young, and dad knocked on your door? He had let you sleep in, much too late on a school day. I remember well that this did not excite me, because we were never allowed to miss school. Your brother walked with you out to the kitchen, both so confused with dread in your hearts. Wasn’t it usually mom that woke us up at 7:30 sharp? Yet now it was nearly 9:00.

Dad didn’t ask us to sit down, he didn’t try to avoid the answer we were both seeking in our sleep addled minds, standing in the happy-yellow kitchen we’d woke to every morning. “Mom’s in the hospital,” he said, confirming that sick feeling that was burrowed deep in your gut. “She’s had a heart attack.”

Do you remember that you cried? You voiced that you should have been a better daughter—of course, this only served to anger your brother. However, I now know that this was his way of coping. Don’t lose your patience with him when tragedy strikes; yes, he will lash out and push you away, but don’t let him because he is hurting inside just as much as you. And yes, we had disagreements with our sisters as well—everyone was looking for who to blame, when it could be placed on all of us.

Do you remember that morning, when you came to realize a mother depended on her children just as much as her children depend on her? And we were not there for her, not nearly enough.

We sat with our brother, ignoring his sharp remarks. We apologized to our sisters, not wanting to fight. We promised our father that when she came home we’d do better.

I’m sorry to say, and it breaks my heart, that we did not do near as much as we promised that day. Yes, we helped with chores when asked, but we did so with a huff of annoyance. Yes, we remembered that day, the promise we made—but my show’s about to start. I have homework to do. Can’t you ask someone else? I don’t feel like that right now.

Short years have passed and it’s a week before Christmas. School’s almost out and I sit in my room, bored at my desk as I suffer through the equations and problems of my last math assignment. There’s a knock at the door and our sister is there, phone pressed to her ear with red eyes filled with tears. “What’s wrong?” I ask, expecting something simple. But my heart speeds up and my breath draws short. “What’s wrong?”

I’m sorry to say, but mom’s had a stroke. I’m sixteen now yet the pain feels the same—I’m back in that happy-yellow kitchen with my dad and my brother, nauseous with fear and eyes burning with anguish. I’m back to that day, short years ago, when I silently sat with my brother, apologized to my sisters and promised my father that I would do more.

“Don’t make promises that you can’t keep.” I remember many times mom and dad told us this, making honest people of their children.

I’m sorry to say, but we made a promise that we did not keep.

And that night I made my brother angry, I snapped at my sisters and locked myself in my room; it was seven days until Christmas. I did not cry in front of my brother again, I hugged my sisters and cleaned up my own messes; it was six days until Christmas. I helped do the laundry, cleaned up the house and tidied the kitchen; it was five days until Christmas. Our brother went out to get a Christmas tree—it was ugly and refused, but the last one to be found; it was four days until Christmas. I handed in the last of my homework, wished my friends and teachers a happy holiday, and returned home to help decorate our rather ugly tree; it was three days until Christmas.

It was Christmas Eve day and my brother took me to write my divers test—Mom! I passed! I got my G1! It was Christmas Eve and mom was coming home—we hugged her and welcomed her, showed her our terrible tree and decorating skills, but she smiled and sat with us beside that tree, talking until it was dark. Remember to be patient, when it’s time for you to welcome mom home, she is still recovering and we have to talk slow, don’t interrupt or jump in to help. Our mother is strong, determined and refuses to let the expectations of doctors or speech therapists deter her recovery.

It was Christmas day and we could never be more grateful that our mother was there with us, enjoying the presents and beautiful dinner.

Five years have passed and I’m twenty years old. I can’t be there for mom anymore, living away from home in order to attend University. But mom is still here, though there are bumps in the road. I remember those days, and cringe to remember the promise I broke. I suppose it’s because I am older now and can think back on the years with a different perspective—I was a lazy daughter, an ungrateful teenager and no semblance of a friend. I can’t quite say that I’m all grown up and know so much more, because she is still the first person I ask when something confuses me, the first person who hears about my good and bad days. She’s still the one who first hears of my achievements, the one who congratulates me but keeps me focused when I think one success is enough.

I’m halfway through university now, striving to do the best I can do, because I wasn’t there for mom all those years. I’m striving to learn and mature, so someday I can be the one who she can depend on, when I can offer a promise I know I can keep.

I’m sorry to say, but you’ll make these mistakes. You’ll break your promise and cry your eyes out a week before Christmas, but you’ll never work harder in your life than to make your mother proud.

I promise that the next promise you make will be one you keep.


Your Future Self.

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