48. Guess Who Came for Dinner?

48. Guess Who Came for Dinner?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

Guess Who Came for Dinner?

A loving heart is the truest wisdom.

~Charles Dickens

I still couldn’t believe I’d invited him for dinner and that he accepted, especially after all that had happened between us. We’d had a fiery divorce, so getting together for dinner at my house some twenty-seven years later was something I never thought would happen. But here I was preparing meatloaf, Bob’s favorite meal, and he was due at my door shortly. While setting the table, I reflected again upon this spontaneous invitation to my former husband. It was completely unfiltered. It had just popped out of my mouth. Actually it caught us both off guard, and if the truth were known, he probably accepted due to pure shock.

Several weeks earlier, my former husband Bob and I had come face to face at the funeral of a mutual friend. It had been years since we’d had any contact, but I’d recently been informed of Bob’s heart surgery and other complications. Although I knew he wasn’t doing well, absolutely nothing prepared me for the decline I saw. This once vibrant, high-powered businessman was now painfully thin, stooped and frail. While it was true we’d both aged, at least I had my health. Perhaps that’s what caused me to blurt out the “surprise” dinner invitation, maybe out of gratitude for my own good fortune.

Stuffing a few of my garden’s blooms into a beautiful antique vase, I gave the table a once-over. “Not bad,” I mumbled, and adding my usual touch of sarcasm, “I hope he realizes what he walked away from and regrets it all.” Oddly enough, a spirited conversation I’d had with my sister several years ago came to mind.

“Don’t you think it’s time you started forgiving, Sis?”

“Let me tell you, getting over hurts and betrayals is easier said than done,” I snapped. “Besides, you’re married to a great guy so what could you possibly know about hurt and betrayal?”

“You’re right, but you still love him. Love never goes away. It just takes on a different form.”

Angry now, I set her straight. “Really? Well believe me, you have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Maybe, but I read a quote once that said, ‘regardless of circumstances, love never dies, it just sleeps until forgiveness wakes it up.’ ”

“Drop it, will you?” was my reply, and she never mentioned it again. But somehow I never forgot it.

“Anybody home?” It was Bob. “I knocked but no answer, so thought maybe you changed your mind.” Always a charmer, he continued, “Sure smells good in here. Of course, you always did make the world’s best meatloaf. Did I ever tell you that?” Then laughing, he added, “Obviously if I did, it wasn’t often enough. Right?”

We spent the next hour or so chatting over a bottle of Chablis. It had been decades since we’d sat together. It was nice and it felt good. In fact I was surprised at the ease we both seemed to feel. He filled me in on his declining health, but was quick to remind me that he’d had a great life. We laughed at old times and when he asked how I was doing, I felt he sincerely meant it. I even gave him a tour of my modest home, and he appeared impressed. “You’ve done well, kid,” was all he said, but to me that was praise from Caesar.

By now it was time to eat, and we continued our pleasant conversation throughout dinner. It was comfortable. Actually, we lingered, and it was nice. Maybe it was the ease I felt, or maybe it was the two glasses of Chablis, but suddenly I decided to tell him how I felt.

“I know I’ve been more than angry with you over the years, but what happened between us was my fault too and I’m so sorry,” I began, “and I want you to know, I love you, Bob, and always will. You taught me so much, and I will forever be grateful for the time we had together and for the time we had apart. Maybe it was all necessary. I forgive you and I just hope you can forgive me.” By now I was crying but somehow it all seemed good. In the dim light of the little chandelier over the kitchen table I noticed tears coming down his cheeks too and there was a silence between us that on some level said it all.

It was getting late and our bittersweet evening had finally caught up with us. Strange, but I sensed that neither of us were quite ready for it to end. We kissed goodbye and I mentioned again that I loved him and hoped he could forgive me. He just smiled and simply said, “There’s nothing to forgive. Tonight proved that.” I watched him shuffle slowly down the front porch steps to his car while carrying a Macy’s shopping bag filled with leftover meatloaf and apple cobbler. Even the streetlight swathed our evening in a soft reassuring glow. We waved goodbye and with tears streaming down my face, I watched him pull away. Every angry thought I’d ever had about him was gone. That was the last time we saw one another. He passed away eight months later.

Since then, I’ve thought a lot about Bob, our time together, myself, and my sister’s quote. Maybe she was onto something. Maybe love does sleep until forgiveness wakes it up. In fact, I wonder if that’s what happened to me that night. When I found myself forgiving, surprisingly, I found myself loving. And for the first time in years, the stone in my own heart was gone.

~Linda LaRocque

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