The woman approached me while I was sitting in a chair with Tess at the church's blood drive. I wasn't surprised...we were often approached by older women at church wanting to make the baby smile and to comment on how big the kids are getting.
"Your kids are getting so big," she told me. "I sit on the other side of the church and watch you all with all your kids and your husband is so sweet with that baby."
I smiled and agreed, yes, the kids are getting big, yes, my husband is very sweet with the baby. She turned to go and suddenly, impulsively, turned back, leaned over and wrapped her arm around my shoulder and kissed me on the forehead.
I couldn't have been more surprised.
"I want to apologize for what I said a long time ago," she said. Her face looked embarrassed and almost tearful at the same time.
"What do you mean?!" I asked, honestly bewildered.
"Oh, well, good, you've forgotten then. But I am sorry, I wasn't feeling well that day and I shouldn't have said what I said and I felt badly about it for months and I wanted to apologize." The words came out in a rush. And suddenly I realized who she was. She was the woman I wrote about in this post two years ago.
I was overwhelmed. That was a really difficult time for me. I was very hurt by the way she had acted and felt like I wasn't wanted in my own parish. That day led me to move to the other side of the church because I was too embarrassed to sit among the older people that populate the front of the church, and I was painfully aware of every peep that came out of my children for a long time afterwards. I was angry with this woman for a long time, and part of me still was, because, unfairly, she had become the face of every impatient old person I'd encountered since then. Every turned head in restaurants, every look on the walking trail of a nearby town of retirees, every glance in the grocery store...some of them may not have even been thinking anything unkind, but my heart was on guard and I assumed that they were, every time, that they were irritated by our very presence, these people that had finished raising their own children and now had no patience left for anyone else's. "You're just like her. You don't want us here."
And then she apologized. And in that moment, she just became what she was...an old woman unused to the commotion that follows young children, someone looking forward to a quiet weekday service at church free from the noisy young families that populate the Sunday morning mass that follows our parish's religion classes, someone that said something she shouldn't have said and didn't really mean.
Have you ever done that? Said something stupid to someone else? Wanted to reach out and snatch back your words when you saw the fallen look on their face? Yeah, me too.
"That's ok," I answered softly. "Thank you."