When the discussion was at its hottest, when she wasn't sure if I would even stay and listen, in desperation, she tried one last time "I'm your mother, Greg, I love you and I have never lied to you except for this one thing. Please give me a chance to explain."
I had just confronted my single-parent mom that I new I had been misled about my 'dead' father.
I truly was so pissed. I wanted to get up and leave, but she actually was all I had. At eighteen, I was an adult - but in reality I was not prepared to be on my own. The only maturity I had was to acknowledge my immaturity. No job, not finished with school, not even a serious major in school, I was not fit to be on my own. With all the humility I could muster, and barely enough to exceed my anger and feelings of betrayal I all but whispered "okay, but just know that I am crushed and mad as hell."
"I know," Mom conceded, "and I know that it's my fault. Here's what happened."
"I was nineteen; it was the 'eighties. I had the world by the tail, well not really. I was a student, but didn't have great employment opportunities. I wasn't sure what I 'wanted to be when I grew up' - so to speak. But I had every intention of doing things the right way. I would finish school, get a good job, find a husband, and start a family ... all the expected things in the right time and in the right order.
"Here we are. I didn't do everything like I planned. I lied to you about your father and it's the only lie I ever told you. Your dad was not a soldier that died in a training accident. I'd give my heart for that to be true, but I can't make it so. Your father was never a part of your life from when he heard you were conceived. He left me before you were born. We were never married. But that doesn't mean you are not loved and wanted or that you were not conceived out of love, it just means I love you without reservation.
"I got pregnant at nineteen and when he found out I was pregnant, your father moved to another state. He disappeared. I did love him so. And he loved me; he was just too young to accept the responsibility. So I had you and moved to this city so I could try to get a job, make a home, and raise you without a stigma.
"I didn't know how to tell you the truth, so I had to have an explanation that sounded acceptable. Sometimes the fabric of life is made out of cotton and when we can't handle it, we refashion as silk. It's still cotton, but we call it silk for our own comfort.
"It was summer, the summer after my freshman year in college. I had a job, and also a part-time job. But I had days off and this was a day off. I had saved money for school, but I had a little extra and I found this wonderful white linen summer dress. I loved it; it was one of the first dresses I felt really pretty in, really pretty. And I went for a walk in the park, spent the time visiting the zoo and the gardens. I met a boy.
"He was nineteen also, he hadn't gone to college, he had a good paying job and it was his day off. I could tell right away that he liked me; and I liked him. His name was Dan. We shared sodas and hot dogs at the snack bar and we just talked and I think it was the first time I really felt grown up. When he thought I couldn't see, I saw him staring at my legs, my arms, my hair, and everything. He stared as if he hadn't seen anything as precious in his life and I loved the feeling it gave me. I know I was precious as a baby and child in the eyes of my parents. But now I felt precious as a woman in Dan's eyes.
"We started dating. My parents didn't really like Dan and they let me know. They were afraid I wouldn't finish college. They were afraid I would - I would end up marrying too young, like they did.
"When we weren't working, we spent time together. Soon we found ourselves getting closer and closer. One day, we were both off for the whole day and we planned a picnic in the country. Dan asked me if I could where that white linen sun dress and I was so happy to wear it for him. Son, the picnic was wonderful and magical; I can't describe it well enough. But we went too far and well, you know ...
"We couldn't keep our hands off of each other and for weeks, we enjoyed a splendor, a love, a joy beyond words. One day, I worried a bit, the next day I worried more. I told Dan and he told me it would be fine, it would work out. He held me and we were one again.
"After a week, I went to the doctor. I was going to have a baby. Sweetheart, I can't tell you all I felt. The fear and panic were as large as the love and sunshine that filled me. I had to tell my parents and I felt so very alone. Your grandfather cried and he stopped speaking to me that evening. My mom sat stunned. The pain on their faces was deep and clear. Eventually, I went to my room and called Dan and told him. He said we needed to talk and he would 'see me tomorrow'. But the next day, he didn't come by and he didn't answer when I called. The next day, I called Dan's work and he was gone. He had asked for his paycheck and didn't say where he would be.
"Son, I was alone. My parents wouldn't speak to me; my love was gone without a word. To make a long story short, I moved here to this town and got a job. When it was clear I was in trouble, a wonderful couple - you call them aunt Sara and uncle Joe - took me in and helped me through the hardest times and helped me get on my feet with my new baby. They gave me help and support and helped me know that we'd make it. You and I, we'd make it. And we did make it.
"But I didn't know how to tell you. I was so ashamed of my youthful mistakes. I was so worried what you'd think of me. And so, I made up the story about your father so you would be thinking of good things, not my shortcomings and I ... I lied to you. And I am ashamed again. I lied and I wish I could crawl into a hole and disappear. I am so sorry, so very, very sorry.
When Mom had finished her story, I wrapped her in a hug that was not as big as the lump in my throat. I held her tighter than ever, suddenly afraid of losing her. I whispered "Mom, I understand and of course I forgive you. I am so sorry I hurt you. You are everything to me and all I could ever deserve. Thank you."
After we had hashed it out, I felt better and life returned to near normal. I appreciated my mom in new ways, but I also hurt that she had felt she had to mislead me. But back to normal was better and things were better. I got involved in the couple of summer school classes I was taking and had my part time job, and things with mom were really better than ever.
One day, it was a day off and I had nothing really special planned. I needed a new shirt for work, so I decided to go to the mall and just browse around in the air conditioning, rather than fight the summer heat wave.
I found the exact shirt I needed and wanted at the second store I tried and I thought I might just wander around and get mom a small gift. Maybe some specialty soap, a candle, or a music CD would be nice to surprise her. I walked for a few minutes, trying several stores but not finding what I wanted.
Suddenly, I froze in my tracks. She was coming out of Macy's with her arms full of shopping bags. The most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She walked with a grace most young women don't have. She had a beautiful blue skirt and a pink cotton blouse that was elegant in its simplicity. Her face was bright and lighted by her smile. Her blue eyes sparkled, even from this distance. I was so intrigued; I had to get to know her.
I closed the distance between us. As I approached, I smiled "Hi, my name is Danny and you look like you could use some help carrying those. May I?"
Her smile back was so sweet, "I'm Gina. I'd be happy for your help, but only if I can buy you a coke for your kindness" she answered. And I took the two largest bags and we began talking. As we walked, I saw that she was more beautiful up close than I had dreamed. Her figure was amazing, her personality delightful, and she radiated joy. I was hooked! And I wondered to myself "Is that blouse really silk instead of cotton?"
As we headed for her car, we waited for traffic to clear before we stepped off the curb. After the last car, we looked at each other and smiled, then stepped to the street.
I knew what was going to happen and I was powerless to stop it.