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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Mama Told Me

Mama Told Me

Dizzy with despair, I fought for each breath. Deep within my breast, a terrible, throbbing ache replaced the gentle thump thump thump of a heart that, just a moment before, had been innocently anticipating a joyful reunion. My heart was broken, suddenly and without warning, and I was not sure how I was going to endure the hurt. So this is what they mean by heartache, I thought to myself with wonder.

I should have seen it coming! The warnings were there all along, but I, in love, had ignored the signals, the sign posts, the red, flashing lights which foretold the impending betrayal. I had blithely closed my eyes to the inevitable, and now I was paying for it.

What was it my mother said to me? During one of our infrequent late-night talks, Mom offered some advice. She counseled... "Beware of anyone who accuses you of doing something you would never do, would never dream of doing, and would never think of doing. They are judging you by their own standards, and eventually, you will see that they will do the very thing they accuse you of."

As she spoke, various acquaintances came to mind. There was Joy. Sweet, loving Joy, who expected everyone to be gentle, kind and honest. Karen, a person I avoided because of her tendency to take whatever she liked, and thus always accused others of stealing. Bob, who would tell a lie even if the truth were better, and believed that everyone was dishonest. Yes, I thought, realizing the truth of my mother's words, Mom is absolutely right!

Years later, however, wildly in love, my heart filled with romantic fantasies, I somehow forgot my mother's wise words of warning, and thought Terry was being romantic when he started accusing me of seeing other men. Trustingly, lovingly, I assured him that I was as true and loyal as any man could want. "Why would I see other men when I have the man all women desire?" I would smile, give him a warm, sensuous kiss, and dismiss the conversation as a sure sign that he was as in love as I.

I had always been a one-man woman. Intrigue, evoking jealousy, playing one man against the other, never appealed to me. Disliking games, I did not play them. I guess you can say I wore my heart on my sleeve, but that was me; being honest and open suited me. The thought of changing what was comfortable to my personal moral code never entered my mind, so when Terry began his accusations, I took them at face value. I believed he was afraid of losing a love as important to him as it was to me.

I remember – it was a Saturday. I rose early because I had extra errands to run that day. I also decided to do something I had previously never done: stop by Terry's house unannounced. The night before, Terry had broken our usual Friday night date. His mother was ill, he explained, and he wanted to spend the evening with her, get her any groceries she may need, and make sure she ate a good dinner. I was proud of Terry, anxious to see him and to inquire as to how his mother was doing. So, it was with happy anticipation that I knocked on his door.

I never got her name. I remember that she was beautiful, with long blonde hair. "Who are YOU?" she demanded. I stood there, in shock, unable to speak at first, finally mumbling, "I'm....I'm...Terry's girlfriend..."

A look of disdain crossed her lovely features. Turning her head, and looking over her shoulder, she called, "Terry! Here's another one!" Swiveling back, and looking me straight in the eye, she smirked, "He does this all of the time. Join the club, honey," and slammed the door.

At that moment, a searing pain filled my heart, and remained there for a long, long time. I don't know how I made it home. I only remember climbing the stairs to my room and falling upon my bed. Why didn't I listen, Mom? I wailed to myself. Why? I learned my lesson. To this day, I watch and pay attention to what people expect of others.
         I remember my mother's words, and use them as a compass in choosing those who will be a part of my life, and those who will not. If a friend charges others with being too kind, I embrace them; stealing, I guard my possessions; lying, I weigh their words; betrayal, I observe them closely. And I have told my son, "Beware of anyone who accuses you of doing something you would never do..."

Excerpt From Swinging Bridge

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