How Much More Time

R nodded at me from across the church parking lot, waving goodbye as he got in his car to return to Wisconsin.  The rest of us were heading over to my sister’s for Zachary’s post communion party, but with a seven hour drive ahead of him, R needed to skip the party and get on the road now.

I hadn’t been sure at all how to handle the First Communion.  R had been back a few times since he’d moved; we’d been to his parents once for dinner, and he’d come to the dinner party I’d had for the fifth anniversary of my mother’s passing.  It had all been very cordial, but it was just that…polite.  No big apologies, no grand gestures, no movement on either of our parts to move towards a more middle ground.  We weren’t fighting; we weren’t anything.

We’d posed for photos as a family outside the church, and I’d received welcome kisses from his hopeful parents as they saw us together, again.  We were in the same church that we’d gotten married in; in fact, it was the first time we’d all assembled there since that day.  The occasion should have felt hopeful, but the  cloudy May day seemed to bring us all down with its damp chill.

“You know he misses you,” said R’s mother as she came up behind me.  I was still standing where I’d said goodbye to him, my sister having taken Z back to her place to give us a moment.

I turned to look at my mother in law, her face open and happy.  “I know he does,” I said, not being able to state the reciprocal.

She touched my forearm, taking my hand in hers.  “I know my son.  He can be rigid, and harsh.  He is not the best communicator in the world.  And worst of all, he has a very hard time admitting and apologizing for his mistakes.  I lived with him for twenty five years.  I know my son.”

I sighed.  “You don’t have to do this.  You don’t have to try to fix this for us,” I said honestly.

“But what I also know about my son,” she continued as we slowly started walking towards her car, “is that he is a good man.  He is hard working, and loyal, and he is committed to the vows he took when he married you.”

“I appreciate that,” I said, not sure what else to say.  “But is it enough?  Because we said we’d do this forever, does that excuse the bad stuff?  Does that mean I just have to live with all of those things that I don’t want to be a part of our lives?”

She smiled at me.  “No, of course not.  You have to be very clear with what is acceptable and what is not in your marriage.  Absolutely.  And you’re not wrong in that, please don’t think that any of us on this side of the family think that you are.  We completely agree that he crossed over the line.  But it’s been months now, months of him trying to make things right.”

“Yes,” I said simply, not sure of what else to say.

“All I’m saying,” she said softly as we reached the car, where R’s father was waiting for us, “is that he’s not going to keep trying forever.”

I swallowed hard as I sat down in the backseat.

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