One night I borrowed his custom-made Guild guitar for a gig. Of course, I forgot to ask. The next day he discovered the greasy smear on the finish and lectured me on exactly how custom it was: ” all the glue and braces are carefully weighed before they get fitted.” My response “Why” just made him madder when he couldn’t think of why this was important. Then there was the night he brought home a girlfriend, and Billie walked off with her and the Valentine’s Day chocolate he had bought her. We were not ideal roommates, and I am at a total loss about what was on his mind when he allowed us to continue living with him.
Eventually, we came “home” after an extended frolicking detour to a friend’s house somewhere in Ohio to find our belongings piled on the landing outside the apartment door. We moved in with another friend. Our friends Bob and Chris lectured us on our inconsiderate behavior, and we felt enough remorse that we attempted to visit him to apologize. He refused to open the door.
That was where it lay for many years. Billie died. Other friends in Baltimore died, Bob died, and eventually, Chris died too. Reading the final obit, I found that my old roommate was the reverend who gave the eulogy. I was amazed. And I decided to reach out.
Reaching out takes doing when trying to reach someone that does not want to be contacted. I decided to leave a message: “Hi Ed. It’s Lou, but you probably remember me as Wes. I heard that Chris died and that you did the eulogy for her. I’m sorry that I couldn’t have been there. By the way, I’m sorry for all the grief I caused you back when we lived in Chinatown. The things I pulled were idiotic and childish. I can’t speak for Billie, but I know I made your life miserable simply because it was easy for me to take care of myself first and anyone else last. I understand that I probably am one of the last people that you want to catch up with. I am sorry.”
I had almost forgotten about the message when one day I found a voicemail on my cellphone; it was from the Reverend Ed: “Wes, I forgave the both of you years ago. I understand the difference between the acts of a child and an irresponsible adult. Getting beyond the anger and resentment took a long time. But I learned an important lesson; I allowed the two of you to take advantage. I thank God that you understand the hurt you inflicted and that you’ve moved beyond those things. I hope you’ll realize there is forgiving and forgetting. I sincerely hope you have a good life.” and that was it. No, let’s talk, or any other invitation for dialog.
I thought about it for a while. At first, I was miffed that bygones were not going to be just bygones. Then I realized the Rev was right. It’s one thing to forgive and another to invite someone who has caused a lot of discomfort into your life again. The Rev’s faith called on him to forgive, and he had- he also graciously responded to me. He was under no obligation, years later, to invite me back into his life. Forgiveness is a process that frees us from the burden of pain. Forgetting negates that process. Not remembering lets nasty things happen to us. Repeatedly.
My thanks to the Reverend Ed for making me think about this.