Monday, February 23, 2009

When The Roses Aren't Red

Tragedy always begs the question: Is there a time limit to mourning? How long does one grieve? The flip side of this, how long does one hold a grudge? Hold on to the anger? The grief? The blame?

I understand the argument that holding on to anger and resentment can eat a person from the inside out and rot your soul. Sometimes, however, it serves a higher purpose.

I belonged to a geek-for-hire tutoring program for freshman classes at my university. During one of the tutoring sessions, my student was visibly upset and not focused at all. When asked, the story was as follows:

Her father had killed someone in a drunk-driving accident several years back. I do not recall the exact circumstances, but my sense was that there was very little, if no jail time served. My student had just gotten off the phone with her mother. It was the anniversary of the accident, and it turns out that the widow of the victim sends a bouquet of black roses to their house. Every year.

The student told me they had moved, changed their contact information, done everything humanly possible. Yet still, that woman and her kids found them every year and had those black flowers delivered.

Why won't she just leave us alone? she asked. She explained how upset it made her family. Her father.

My thoughts? Too. Fucking. Bad. Your dad? Killed her husband. He killed the father of those children. Because he was drunk. It upsets you and your family that one day a year you have to think about that fact? How about those kids who will never sit down to dinner with their father? The wife who had to pick up the pieces and suddenly raise a family and pay the bills on her own? He may have been the love of her life, and she will never feel his arms around her again.

Did I say those things? Well. I explained them in not so many words. I tried to gently give the other point of view. That while she "only" had to "deal" with it once a year, those kids and their mom dealt with it every single day.

My voice was calm. I do not trust that my eyes were.

Answering my own question of guilt, blame, and a time frame, I think this is a time where there is no time frame. An action that may have started out in anger I feel may well have evolved into a simple, yet effective, reminder.

Lady of the Roses? I hope you are still out there. I hope you continue to honor your husband by having those roses delivered. He deserves it, and so does the other family.


Sherrie said...

I am with you on this one. I was actually just thinking about how I dont blame Ameneh Bahrami for wanting her spurned suitor to suffer the same fate he gave her. Although that is a much more extreme case. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. And why shouldn't they live, and feel remorse, for a tragedy that could have been avoided if he just refused to get in his car.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting situation . . .

I suppose the girl resents the fact that the other family won't let them forget the accident. Sees it as their way of rubbing their noses in the excrement their father/husband unleashed in a moment of stupidity and carelessness.

I wonder how her dad deals with the yearly reminder . . . I wonder if he takes it out on the girl in some way?

Sad, the way some bear the grudge like a crown, to quote Maynard . . .

P. S. You should check out my last post. Just perhaps, you'll agree that I've earned that little fathering badge . . . not that I'm bragging or anything . . .

buddha_girl said...

Maybe the Lady of the Roses will make herself known around these parts. I'd like to think the Fates would make it happen. I'd be happy to donate some cashola to her in an effort to fund the never-ending black roses.

My older sister's friend was speeding recklessly when they were 18. My sister died needlessly in the crash. Her "friend?" She lived to tell the tale and moved on before my sister was even cold in the ground. I wish I'd had the forethought as a 15 year old kid to follow this supposed friend with some black roses.

The person you were tutoring? I'm afraid to say that I would have "botched" the "learning sessions" so that the girl would have flunked. I'm a vengeful bitch like that.

Joe said...

hrmmm... I've been sitting here for about 4 minutes, trying to get my thoughts on this straightened out. I can't.

Would I still be holding a grudge? Surely. Is it healthy? Possibly.

I dunno...

Not Afraid to Use It said...

@Sherrie: You are right. Forgiving and forgetting are not the same. Sometimes, I think a little anger is important so that we don't forget, and we can break the cycle of letting people take advantage of us.

@tysdaddy: You make an excellent point I hadn't thought of. I wonder if her dad did take it out on her in some way?

@Buddha_Girl: There is no reason for you not to start now. :)

@Joe: Putting ourselves into this situation as adults with children with our own makes the scenario much more poignant. It is hard to know what is right, or what we would do. What does your wife think?

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Wow. I'm trying to wrap my head around this. Forgiveness versus reminding. I can't decide where I am on this. But I know I'll be thinking about it for a very long time.

Thanks for the post, darlin'!

A Free Man said...

I don't know where to line up on this one. First of all, it's not the girl's fault, so she has the right to be upset. There's also something to be said for forgiveness, it's the only way you really get past the grief and anger. That being said, it's a pretty bad ass gesture - haunting.

Gypsy said...

I think I'd be more ready to endorse the sending of black roses if the family of the drunk driver didn't have to be blamed (i.e., receive the flowers), too. Still. I understand the value of remembering.

random_mommy said...

Possibly this yearly reminder has prevented this man from ever driving drunk again. Maybe he needs a reminder.

Patois said...

The man should send a card to the widow and her family each year, begging forgiveness, acknowledging that he, too, thinks of her husband/their father.

K-Mom said...

I think those roses were having their intended effect.

Deb said...

I think if those roses create discussions like this, then they are serving another purpose. No one can stop that man from getting in the car now, but we can all think about the decisions we make or teach others to make.

Not Afraid to Use It said...

@CMGD: You're welcome! Anything to keep us thinking and keep our mommy brains from turning to mush. :)

@AFM: Interestingly, the girl never expressed regret or sadness that her dad killed anyone, just that the flowers were delivered. I'm not saying that she didn't feel sad about it, but I wonder that now she is an adult, likely with a family of her own, if she feels any differently.

@Gypsy: I wonder how much blame the family took on versus the father. Maybe he felt no remorse, so they felt they had to in his behalf? I have no idea, I'm just speculating.

@Random_Mommy: Very good point.

@Patois: I think they often discourage that (legally) because that is an admission of guilt that can be pursued in court. I think he ought to do something, though. Whether it is volunteer at a school, or even quietly taking flowers to the man's grave. Something to show atonement.

@K-Mom: I agree.

@Deb: Which is why I hope all involved were able to take something positive away from the situation.

Kat said...

Woah. Black roses are dramatic. Almost violent. I'm with you on this one, too. You made a good point to her - I wouldn't say it it a bad thing to be reminded, every single year, not to drink and drive.