December of 1993 seems like yesterday. I was driving my mother to my Vermont home from New Jersey for her last Christmas as she was nearing the end of her life. She told me a story about her father, whom she adored, that I will never forget.
She had been married for several years when one day, on a visit to her home, her father made an unexpected apology. He apologized for wronging her by not letting her date people of different nationalities while she had been a young adult. This floored me. I never heard anyone talk about my grandfather ever being wrong, least of all my mother. He didn’t know everything but he was always willing to learn and help others learn. When I was young, he taught me my ABC’s and math facts. We looked up words together in the dictionary. He taught me how to play cards and checkers. He let me read his treasuered The War of the Worlds novel by H. G. Wells and then we discussed it. It seemed like we could talk about anything. I never heard him raise his voice or speak unkind about anyone. How could he have so wronged my mother? How could this be my grandfather? This man who was forced to leave school in 6th grade to support his family when his father died. This man who strove to earn his high school equivalency and raise his own family. This man who became a postal carrier, helped form a local union and always had time to talk to his customers. My grandfather explained to my mother on this day that he had let the intolerance of his time influence his own beliefs. As he aged, he began to reflect upon his beliefs and recognize his own prejudices. This hard-working moral man, who often had prejudice used against him for being of Irish ancestry when he was younger, had never wanted to be considered prejudiced himself. Yet, he had come to realize that he had been just this way against those who were not Irish with my mother while she had been dating. He had told her that he believed all people were equal but his belief system had wavered while she was dating. He now realized how wrong he had been and made his apology.
I am sure that my grandfather would be proud of his daughter who gave me no such restrictions when I dated as a young adult. I was free to meet anyone that I wished. My mother’s story made me realize that her father’s belated apology was the corner stone of my own belief system that appreciates the differences in all people. So much goodness has transpired since that one apology. That is why I believe, it is never too late too apologize.
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