Are Some Things Unforgivable?

Despair 1 painting by Lette Valeska, 1954.

Despair 1 by Lette Valeska, 1954.

My son is 8 months into his recovery. That’s the good news.

The bad news? We’ve had a terrible falling out, words said that seem unforgivable, and I don’t know how we will get past this. Or even if we should.

This was, hands down: Worst. Christmas. Ever.

With one small bright spot.

After writing my last post about if you can’t be with the ones you love (my own grandchildren), love the ones you’re with (the child of my son’s girlfriend), I did just that. A few days before Christmas, the little boy spent the night with me. It was a sweet, tender time.

He helped me decorate the Christmas tree, set up the Nativity scene, decorate sugar cookies. We played together, sang together, read books together. We cuddled in bed where I stayed with him until he fell asleep. When he woke up later calling “Grandma! Where are you!” I spent the rest of the night in bed with him. We’d had a lovely time together. I was looking forward to Christmas Eve when he would return with his mom and my son for dinner, then spend the night and open presents the next day.

But it never happened. And I’ll probably never see the little boy again.

After spending weeks preparing to make this the best Christmas ever for them all,the boy’s mother texted me an hour before dinner to say she couldn’t make it after all. She’d been spending the day migrating between the festivities held at the four churches she attends. None of the churches know about the other, and all were trying to help her. One promised her a laptop. Another new tires for her car. She decided she’d rather spend Christmas with them than with us. This infuriated my son, and he broke up with her. We spent a sad, lonely Christmas together–just my son and his dad and me–staring at a Christmas tree and all those lovely gifts we had so joyfully selected and wrapped, which would never be opened.

The next day we went to return the girlfriend’s presents (I held on to the presents for her son, hoping I may still be able to get those to him someday). That’s when things blew apart. When things were said that seem unforgivable.

I used to think it was the drugs, when he would go off on me like this, say these horrible things. I told myself, it’s the drugs, not him, not my son. In his right mind, when he wasn’t strung out, when he wasn’t having withdrawals, he would never talk to me like that, never scream and hurl horrible names at me. But he wasn’t on drugs now. He had no excuse. And the terrible realization that this is how he really feels toward me, how he sees me, that it wasn’t the drugs at all, was devastating.

I don’t know how to get pass this. Are some things unforgivable?

Here’s what happened:

When my son and I were in the store returning gifts, I said something that hurt his feelings. He lashed out at me and stomped off. When I returned to the car, he was still fuming. I tried to explain that what he thought I said wasn’t true, and wasn’t meant in the way he found so offensive. But he wouldn’t listen and wouldn’t believe me. He shouted me down when I tried to explain and called me a liar.

The whole time he was shouting at me and calling me a liar, I was picturing him treating his girlfriend like this. He had told me once how she was always lying to him, and even when he called her on it, she would never admit it. It’s the one thing big thing they fought about. I was thinking, if he treated her like this when he thought she was lying, no wonder she didn’t want to be with him, with us, at Christmas, and I said as much. I wanted him to know that if you treat people like this–her or me–you push them away.

Apparently that was the worst thing I could have said to him, rubbing salt in his wound, he said. He hit back screaming the worst things a son could ever say to a mother, calling me names that no mother should ever hear a son call her.

I was shocked and stunned. Nothing I had said should have brought out this kind of hatred and profanity.

I told him to get out of my car, but he refused. He just kept shouting at me and calling me names. So I grabbed the keys and left. We were in the middle of a busy parking lot and I had nowhere to go. I sat on a bench and tried to pull myself together, hoping that by the time I returned to the car he’d be gone. But he wasn’t. And he wouldn’t leave. He insisted I drive him back to my house where all his things were, including three bags of laundry he had washed, and then drive him back to his place.

I was furious, shamed, outraged. I felt violated, abused, sick. I drove him 30 miles home so he could get his stuff, then 30 miles back to his place, all in a furious silence.

By the time I got home, I was physically ill, vomiting, my head pounding. I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t see how I could ever get past this, how I could ever forgive him, now that I knew it wasn’t the drugs. Now I knew it was him all along. It’s how he feels about me, how he feels he can treat me when he’s angry and hurting. He has no respect for me, no gratitude, no love for the one person on earth who has always stood by him and believed in him no matter what.

He has no clue how despicable, how unforgivable, his words were. How utterly they ruined our relationship.

I don’t know how to forgive that. I don’t know that I want to. I can’t imagine anything he could ever say or do that would allow me to forgive him for treating me that way, for thinking I deserved it.

He’s texted me a few times. In his opinion, what I said to him was far worse than what he said to me. He says he talks that way and uses that filthy language all the time, so it doesn’t mean anything. I shouldn’t take it personally.

But I do. I do take it personally. Any self-respecting mother should.

And now, I don’t want to have anything to do with him. I don’t want someone who would treat me like that in my life.

I could rationalize it all in his favor. I could tell myself he was obviously hurting a lot more than I had known about the break-up. He could have been harboring resentment for me for the part I played. He broke up with her in a way because he thought she had hurt me and disrespected me by not coming to dinner and spending Christmas with us. Returning those presents he had picked out for her, dresses he thought she would love and wanted to see her wear, maybe that was more painful than we had realized. Maybe when I said something that he thought was insulting, it all came to a head. And then when I called him on his temper, said if he treated her this way, no wonder she didn’t want to be with him, taking her side as he saw it, maybe it did feel like a betrayal, like the mother he’d defended by breaking up with her was stabbing him in the back. Maybe obscenities are the only way he knows how to express his hurt and anger toward anyone, including me. Maybe. Maybe.

But I’m tired of making excuses for him. The excuses don’t matter. It’s the behavior that matters. I didn’t deserve that. He had no right. Something got broken between us, and I don’t know how it can be mended.

At first I felt I hated him, but now I know I don’t. I’m not even hurt any more. And I do love him still. I care about him. I want him to learn from this and be a better man because of it. Be the man I’ve always known he can be. But how can he be that man if he thinks it’s okay to treat me like that? If I forgive him this time too?

He needs to learn: Some things are unforgivable. Am I wrong?