Thirty Years and One Day


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“Where’s my cell phone?  Have you seen my cell phone?”

He looked at me with vague recognition as he gripped the edges of the overbed table and turned his torso with effort.

“Don’t strain,” I said, “I’ll help you find it.”

I searched through the nightstand and standard issue bedspread, reeking of bleach and staleness and under a chair.  And as I brought my head back up from the floor to meet his, it dawned on him.

“It’s you.”

With folded arms he turned away.

He didn’t want me there.  I knew he didn’t want me there, but I went anyway. When you get a call like that, you go.  When you get a call like that, you put thirty years on the shelf and you unzip your heart and you throw your kids at neighbors and you run through airports and you pray that you make it on time and you come to understand in a fleeting, humbling way how much value there is in one day.

Despite my hurts, I was aware enough to see through a stubborn old man who created a story that looked much different than mine.  We all create stories, to protect ourselves, to live with ourselves, sometimes to prevent ourselves from growing close to those we love the most.  Because loving like that can be scary.  Except we humans, we forget.  Love never killed anyone.  It’s fear that’s the real mortal enemy.

Eventually, he softened. I helped him put on his socks, I held his drink for him. I told him about the brilliant run I had the morning before at the reservoir near my house.  “That’s a great place to run,” he said in quiet recollection.

Slowly, the room that first seemed crowded from all of our mistakes felt lighter.   Because when we let 30 years of fear and anger slip away, there’s room to let the light in.

I sat there and wondered how much those 30 years cost me. Because anger always costs us. Anger lives in our bodies, you know.  It lives in every cell, along with fear and love and old hurts and anxiety and uncertainty.  Pantanjali knew that. 2,500 years later, Candace Pert proved it.  I sat there and wondered how long and how much it would take to extract anger from 100 trillion cells.

I sat there and wondered what I’d have space for in those cells once I got rid of that anger and the righteousness and the hurt from the unmet expectations once and for all.

I vowed that this was the day I would let it go. And if he lived, I resolved to make things different. I would call.   I would visit.  I would bring the kids for week long sleepovers where we’d crash on air mattresses in the guest room.  I told him that next year, when he was better, we’d go to Disneyworld together.

I committed to never again allowing anything to get in the way of us knowing each other.  If I could put thirty years on the shelf for one day, I could do it for another day and yet another, until the days were weeks and the weeks were years and until I was no longer weighed down by those 100 trillion cells  because I would let the light in.

And finally, after thirty years, I felt the light coming into those cells.  I felt the light coming in as the orderly wheeled out the monitors, as I overheard his wife making phone calls to the family, as I stood over him and kissed his forehead that had grown cool.

I was ready.

I think he would have been ready too.

I would have asked him, had we had another day.

What has fear and anger cost you?   


This post was inspired by the lovely Tricia from Raising
and her absolutely stunning post entitled These Days One More, which encapsulates
in the most beautiful way the true value of one day.   This post is definitely worth your read and
your vote for BlogHer VOTY. 


Thirty Years and One Day — 64 Comments

  1. I never felt close to my mother-in-law. We got along fine face to face but it always seemed strained. She passed away three years ago and I find myself missing her at strange times. Of course, sometimes I miss her on behalf of my husband, or on behalf of my kids; but there are some times when I absolutely miss her for myself. I wish I could give her a call or send her an email. And we never had the chance to say goodbye or have closure. This post stirs all of that up inside me. Not in a bad way; just in a way. Thank you for sharing this, Ilene. It helps.

  2. You are a better person than me. I don’t know that I’m angry, but I’m sure not going back for more. And I’m absolutely not subjecting my kids to it, even though they are grown now.
    I’m really glad for you that you were able to find this spot. I can only imagine how it might feel.

  3. I never did actually get to connect with my father, and I wasn’t there when he died. I like to believe that we’ve both shelved our hurt … and that I could have talked with him now.
    But I really need to do it with my mom, whom I still have NOT forgiven. And I need to shelve the anger towards my boss’ boss, too.
    This is such a stunningly beautiful post, Ilene. You have such a way of opening hearts.

  4. Stunning. And of course I’ll read Tricia’s post next because she’s also amazing and I never miss a post from either of you. I think fear and anger have robbed me of years of missed opportunities in love and career.

  5. Ilene, this post is not only EXCELLENT, it is therapeutic. I so love this post. You are absolutely right, fear, amongst other things live in us and are dream killers. Love this post! Andrea

  6. I’ve been thinking about this all day and I am still speechless. This so so absolutely beautiful. Fear and anger continue to cost me so much and I still struggle to put them on a shelf.

  7. Beautiful. Just remember that as harmful as anger can be, so is sticking around with someone who is going to hurt you for whatever reason. Treasure those 30 years as much as you treasure that one day. You probably needed them both equally.

  8. What a beautiful post, Ilene. We should all stop and think about the important relationships in our lives. Are we holding back for reasons that perhaps we should let go off? Something to think long and hard about before it’s too late.

  9. I can’t tell you how glad I am that you got that one day. I know there will be unresolved emotions from your Dad’s death, but you knew with a rooted heart that he loved you at the end. And that’s worth a million Disney trips. I’m sorry you only had one day. I would have wished for you whole years of healing. But in the end, you made that one day matter more than the thirty intervening years.

  10. Rabia, first of all, I love that you miss your MIL on behalf of your husband and your kids – that is pure generosity of heart in realizing what she meant to all of those that you love in your life. And that you miss her for yourself even though you didn’t always get along? To me that s hows that you’ve grown in the time that she’s passed. And that growth is something I bet you bring to all of your current relationships. What a gift for you and everyone around you.

  11. Sometimes, I do realize that for some, it’s just too painful. I get that. But if we can get far enough away from the acute pain, then yes, it’s worth the look and the consideration and it’s worth trying to let go of the anger over for sure! Thanks Michelle.

  12. I 100% agree that we need to be careful with our hearts. I think it’s a matter of self awareness and knowing that if you go back to a situation that was once painful, having the honest conversation with yourself and going, “can I handle this no matter what happens? Am I willing to take the emotional risk?” and “Why is this relationship so important to me that I’m willing to take that risk?” And go from there.

  13. Justine, I believe you could have shelved the hurt with your dad and I hope you find peace in that realization. I think that shelving anger and hurt is a difficult and complex process because unless we have let it go, we are just bottling it up and it will come back to haunt us. I think there have to be a readiness to let it go before we can shelf it…and sometimes, we have to let it go again and again and again, since feelings are not linear but radial. Hugs my friend!

  14. Beautiful post. Reading some of the comments… even though you never got to apply it, it sounds like the breakthrough itself gave you the peace you needed to let go of most of the hurt and that in and of itself is a gift.

  15. Anger fills my world right now… but not mine… my soon to be ex’s. It’s so hard to be the recipient of the anger. You try hard not to let it affect your day to day existence, but it’s a powerful emotion, even if it isn’t yours.
    Beautiful and thoughtful piece Ilene. Life is too short for so much anger. I wish peace was easier.

  16. Oooh eeeee this blew me away. It’s got so many emotions running through it. I live your line that love never killed anyone– fear did/does. Brillz.

  17. Beautiful, Ilene. I’m glad that you had that one peaceful day, full of hope and potential. It sounds like your Dad appreciated it too. I give you a lot of credit for letting go of the anger to be there for him at the end. I understand completely how much courage that took for you to do, to risk the rejection and anger on his side, but to stay there anyway. I think you both found peace that day. xoxo, Emily

  18. Such a beautiful image of those cells just letting go of the dark and filling with light. I can only imagine the weight lifted from your heart. Thanks for sharing your story, Ilene, and I pray you inspire both your children and others by your story to let go of past hurts.

  19. I’m very happy for you that you had that opportunity, and took it, and I’m happy for him also, that he too was granted this opportunity– and held out his hand to take it.

  20. Oh Ilene… this is just so so amazingly powerful. Your words were painted on this page in such a vital and inspiring way… I clung to them and would have read an entire book filled with your vivid pictures, scenes, and messages. My heart breaks at the ending of your new beginning…

  21. Oh, this gave me chills.
    I haven’t spoken to my father in about 7 years. And it’s for the best, truly. Sometimes I wish that he could be a part of my life, of my children’s lives. But I don’t feel it’s safe for them(or good for my mental well-being). I’ve been told many times that I’ll regret it when he’s gone… and maybe I will. But I think maybe I’ll grieve more for the father/grandfather that he could have been than who he was.

  22. You are one wise and amazing woman, Ilene. You never stop amazing me. This is one of the most powerful posts I’ve ever read. I’ll vote for you as fiercest woman of the year – and biggest heart too. Gorgeous. Thank you.

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