Does forgiving someone count if the other person doesn’t think they wronged you in the first place? It is a difficult conversation to have with someone who feels justified in their actions. But I do anyway. I forgive my father. I have released him from the bondage of my resentment, even before I’ve been understood. I allow myself to tell my story, but I tell it from a place of peace now. I have no anger. I feel purpose, courage, and love. I am telling my truth. No matter what happens from here, I gave myself that.
Before I begin Kindergarten, Kate- Mom is what I am supposed to call her now- brings me to the beauty salon to get my hair cut short. She says I am not old enough to take care of my own hair and it is too much work for her. Memere didn’t mind brushing it for me, but Kate doesn’t want Memere to help with my hair anymore.
“Don’t you dare cough again!” the hair stylist says to me.
I am not sure if he is kidding, and I don’t want to assume that he is. Maybe my coughing is making it hard for him to cut my hair because it makes me move. I hold it in, feeling myself turn red in the face. I stop breathing so I won’t cough, until I have to breathe again. There is this awful tickle in my throat that won’t go away. He gives me a hard candy to suck on. It only helps a little. By the time he is done, I am so relieved to be out of the chair, I run for the door.
“Wait”, warns my new mother, while she pays.
Then she and Amy and I walk home. It feels strange not to feel my hair swinging while I skip. I run one hand through my new cut and then through the air where my hair used to be. I look more like Amy and Kate now, and less like Lisa, my old mother.
Back at home, I sit forever at the kitchen table because Kate won’t let me go outside to play until I finish at least half of my sandwich. I am not hungry for anything these days, unless it is made of sugar. I barely remember what it feels like to have an appetite. So my new routine is to sit and sit at the kitchen table, until I have nibbled my meal down to something smaller than it was.
On this day Kate’s mother, my new step-grandmother, has come to visit. She sits at the table next to me and picks up my sandwich. She puts it up to my mouth for me to take a bite, which I do. I’m frustrated, angry, humiliated that she’s feeding me, but I can’t find the words to say so. I feel powerless and this makes me burst into tears, spitting the bite out on my new step-grandmother. I run to the bathroom where I let out my sobs. When I come out of the bathroom, thankfully, my plate is gone and I go outside.
That same evening, after my new grandmother has gone home, the four of us, my father, Kate, Amy and I are at the supper table. I have managed to swallow enough spaghetti to satisfy Kate.
Kate has designated herself the food police now, and Amy and I must ask her permission to bring our plates up. She either says “Eat some more”, or “You did good”. So we have developed the habit of asking her after each meal, “Did I do good?” Tonight, she tells me yes. As usual, I am the last to finish. Then Kate brings out the chocolate pudding cake she has made.
As she starts to scoop pieces into dishes, I say “I don’t want any. I don’t like chocolate pudding cake.”
“You don’t?” Amy exclaims, surprised.
“I thought you loved it”, my father comments.
“I don’t like it anymore”, I say.
Then I watch the rest of them eating the cake that I do still love, wishing I had some. But saying I didn’t like it anymore, that I didn’t want what the rest of them liked, somehow made me feel just the teeniest bit of power. Or specialness. It was a choice I got to make. The realization of what I’d done sunk in as my father went back for seconds. Now I wouldn’t be able to have chocolate pudding cake ever again. I hoped that Kate would stop making it.