Day 7: Apologies
Scripture: Read 2 Samuel 12: 1-14 but our focus will be on verse 13. Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Song: Nothing Else- Cody Carnes
Happy Seventh Day of Thanks Everyone!
Today, I give thanks for apologies. It is a real comfort to one’s soul to hear an apology when someone has wronged you or to be able to give an apology when you know you have done something wrong and you so desperately want to be forgiven.
Last year, just before Lilah turned eighteen years old, I had to undergo the legal process of pursuing guardianship for her so that I could continue to address her life’s affairs without interruption. Because she is now considered an adult, every institution with which she interacts (medical, financial, governmental, etc.) does not have to address me concerning her needs, although cognitively Delilah can’t communicate those type of complex decisions or needs for herself (yet!).
For those of you who have been on the Thirty Days of Thanks Journey/Movement since its inception, you know of the catastrophic, painful encounters that I’ve had with Delilah’s dad. I’m sure you can imagine my devastation in the guardianship process, when the courts told me that I had to contact her father to ask him to sign a waiver stating that he was giving me “permission” to pursue legal guardianship for her. Over the years, I have tried to extend an olive branch and be as cordial as possible to Delilah’s dad such that if Delilah ever wanted to get to know him or vice versa that could still happen. However, my last encounter with him caused me to say from the depths of my soul that I was “absolutely and completely done with him.” In addition to him once telling me that he wanted to punish me and make me suffer for leaving him when he needed me most, we had a messy child support case where he openly rejected Lilah in court, insinuated that I was a whore in front of all the court staff, and quit his job so he wouldn’t have to pay child support. It was really messy! Now you know why I avoid Delilah’s father at all cost. I started asking the court representative if there was a way to get around him having to sign the waiver, especially since he was never part of her life nor did he take care of any of her needs outside of his most recent child support payments. She said there was no way for me to get out of it.
I spent three months emailing him explaining the legal guardianship process and letting him know why I needed the papers signed. I got no response. I asked his sister, with who Lilah and I are close, if she could help me contact him. She said that their relationship had been completely severed after our child support case because everyone in her family blamed her for it. In my last-ditch effort, I looked up the last address on record that I had from the child support case years ago and decided to send the documents with an attached note via certified mail to see if that was his address and the documents would reach him. A week later, I got a call from him saying that he had just come from the post office to get the mail I sent because his wife didn’t want to sign for it. He asked “what are these documents for?” I explained to him what the documents were and why I needed him to sign them. He asked, “if I sign these documents does it mean you’ll be tricking me into taking care of your daughter for the rest of her life?” In that moment, I started the long private conversation with myself in my head, reminding myself to stay calm and not say anything that would jeopardize me getting those papers signed.
For the next almost three hours, I had to stay on the phone, hearing my daughter’s father vent about how much of a horrible person I was, how he couldn’t believe that I would drag him, a black man, into the legal system, how I destroyed his marriage because his wife was upset that she had to pay his child support, how I almost got him arrested for his arrears, how his child support payments were messing with his livelihood, how he was angry at me for leaving because he loved me, how I should have had enough money to support my daughter by myself since I was a doctor, etc. etc. etc. I did a lot of deep breathing on that phone call because I was the blame and scapegoat for ALL of his problems. He had no onus of responsibility for anything. After he was done venting, I asked him really calmly if he would permit me to speak since I had quietly listened to everything he had to say. Anyone who really knows me knows that if I stay calm when I should be really angry and start asking a ton of questions, the person who is on the other end of my conversation or behavior has just walked into my lion’s den and will not survive when I’m finished.
I began to speak and asked the question, “Have you ever thought that the predicament you find yourself in is because of what you’ve said and spoken?” Then my real questioning began:
Me: When Lilah was little, did I ask you if you wanted to be part of her life? What was your response?
Him: Yes. I told you that I wanted to be part of her life.
Me: When you moved back home, didn’t you say that when you settled, that you would provide for her and do you part?
Me: Did you ever do that? Did I ever nag you or force you to provide for her, even though you said that you would?
Him: So, if I said that I didn’t want to be in her life then, you would have left me alone.
Me: Yup, because I’d never chase another adult to do what they are supposed to do. All I’m going to do is hold you to your word.
Me: So, why are you upset now when you are being held accountable for what you said?
He stayed quiet.
Me: When Delilah was almost fifteen and I asked you for the first time ever to help me because her diet was way too expensive for me, didn’t you get nasty with me and tell me that you weren’t going to help? Didn’t I tell you that I was going to take you to court for child support then?
Me: So, why are you surprised that you were taken to court for child support?
Him: I knew I should have just come to the Bronx and had a conversation with you to work things out. I had so many people in my ear. I let pride get the best of me.
Me: You should get the transcripts of the court case because you told the judge that you weren’t going to pay any child support and that your wife was going to pay it for you.
Him: I didn’t mean it like that. I wasn’t making any money.
Me: But, you declared that with your mouth and volunteered her to pay it for you. So why am I the reason that your wife has to pay child support?
Him: I really let my mouth get me into trouble.
Me: You also told the court that you have a one-year old son that is not by your wife, so why aren’t you the reason your marriage is destroyed?
He stayed quiet.
Me: In the years that you’ve known me, have I ever disrespected you or talked crazy to you?
Me: Didn’t I say from the very beginning that I would always help and support you as much as I could because I wanted you to be someone that our daughter could be proud of, in spite of you not choosing to be in her life? Didn’t I come through on that promise?
Me: So, how could you let people convince you that I was the worst person in the world? Why would you ever let the horrible things you said in court about me and Delilah come out of your mouth?
Getting emotional, I asked,” how could you drag us through such a degrading experience, reject our baby girl in a court room full of people and make us get a paternity test when you knew that she was yours?”
Him: You don’t even know how horrible I felt and the regret I had when I saw the hurt in your face at the clinic. I told the tech when he was drawing my blood, “I messed up so bad, I’m never going to be able to fix this.”
Me: You didn’t even try to fix it. You don’t know half the struggles Lilah and I have been through.
Him: I’ve googled you from time to time and you seemed as if you were doing okay.
Me: Have you ever asked me how we were doing? Did you know that we were homeless before? When I said that I couldn’t afford her diet by myself, I wasn’t lying to you.
Him: I didn’t know that.
Me: How would you? And the fact that you had the nerve to still pronounce a spirit of rejection over our baby, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to respect you or forget that.
Him: Things have been so bad between us for such a long time and I’ve never wanted it to be that way. I’m really sorry for all the pain and the hurt I’ve cause you over the years. I never meant to hurt you in that way.
That was a pure miracle from God to have those words leave his mouth. Delilah’s father is bull stubborn and so full of pride. You will hardly ever hear him admit that he is wrong or hear an apology from him. I stayed quiet to let him say everything that he needed to say to complete his apology. Then in humility, I asked him again, “Will you sign the papers for guardianship?”
Him: I feel like I don’t have any rights.
Me: What kind of rights do you want? Do you want to be part of Lilah’s life?
He stayed quiet.
Me: Are you going to take her to all of her doctor’s appointments?
Him: I can’t do that.
Me: Are you going to do school meetings, SSI meetings, and complete paperwork for her?
Him: I can’t do that either.
Me: What kind of rights do you want? Because if you can’t do any of those things that she needs done, I need to be able to continue doing them for her, which is why I need you to sign those documents. I’m not here to take away rights. Haven’t I always welcomed you to be part of her life?
He stays quiet for a long time.
Him: There is a notary around the corner. I’ll sign the papers and overnight them to you.
Me: Thank you.
That was a hard conversation and completely unexpected. I left out many of the intricate details of our conversation to save Delilah’s dad some embarrassment but you get the gist. I would have never thought in a million years that the same man who told me he would make sure that I’d suffer would ever apologize for ALL of the pain and hurt he caused me. I never even knew how much I needed to hear him apologize for that pain and suffering. But, the hardness of my heart was chiseled into as I heard him giving an account of the regret and what was really happening in his mind as we were in the depths of many chaotic situations. I thought he was heartless and didn’t care that Delilah and I were extremely hurt by many of the things he did and said. But, he hurt just as much, inflicting the blows, realizing that he had reached points of no return in vital relationships that he really wanted in his life but didn’t know how to salvage.
Since that time, I was granted guardianship for Delilah and have thanked him for signing those documents for us. I’ve only had one other text conversation with him; he sent me a sermon of his favorite preacher. That was another miracle because years earlier, he declared that he was an atheist and that he didn’t serve “my God.” On each of Delilah’s birthdays, I do extend invitations to him to send her birthday wishes but he never responds. I do pray that one day his heart is turned toward her and that he’ll want to meet her since they look and act so much alike. If it never happens, it’s okay. The important thing is that Delilah is completely loved and supported in every way that she needs by me, her “mommy.”
Todays as we give thanks for apologies, I invite you to apologize to that person you know you did wrong because of what you said or did. Put aside the pride and the stubbornness, humble yourself, and do what you need to do. It’s probably hurting you more than it is hurting the person and only you can make it right. That gnawing voice in your head is not going to stop bugging you until you do. And you also have to decide if your pride and selfishness is worth you losing your friendship, your marriage, or that relationship? You know it’s not. Well? Get to it. (and hit me up to let me know that you did it.)
Have a great day of thanks!