Night after night, she came to tuck me in, even after my childhood years. Following her longstanding custom, she'd lean down and push my long hair out of the way, then kiss my forehead.
I don't remember when it first started annoying me – her hands pushing my hair that way. But it did annoy me for they felt work-worn and rough against my young skin.
Finally, one night, I lashed out at her: "Don't do that anymore – your hands are too rough!"
She didn't say a thing in reply. But never again did my mother close out my day with that familiar expression of her love. Lying awake long afterward, my words haunted me. But pride stifled my conscience, and I didn't tell her I was sorry.
Time after time, with the passing years, my thoughts returned to that night. By then I missed my mother's hands, missed her goodnight kiss upon my forehead. Sometimes the incident seemed very close, sometimes far away. But always it lurked, hauntingly, in the back of my mind.
Well, the years have passed, and I'm not a little girl anymore. Mom is in her mid-seventies, and those hands I once thought to be so rough are still doing things for me and my family. She's been our doctor, reaching into a medicine cabinet for the remedy to calm a young girl's stomach or soothe a boy's scraped knee. She cooks the best fried chicken in the world, gets stains out of blue jeans like I never could, and still insists on dishing out cream at any hour of the day or night.
Through the years, my mother's hands have put in countless hours of toil, and most of hers were before perma-pressed fabrics and automatic washers!
Now, my own children are grown and gone. Mom no longer has Dad, and on special occasions, I find myself going next door to spend the night with her. So it was late one Thanksgiving Eve, as I drifted into sleep in the bedroom of my youth, a familiar hand hesitantly stole across my face to brush the hair from my forehead. Then a kiss, ever so gently, touched my brow.
In my memory, for the thousandth time, I recalled the night my surly young voice complained: "Don't do that anymore – your hands are too rough!"
I reacted involuntarily. Catching Mom's hand in mine, I blurted out how sorry I was for that night. I thought she'd remember, as I did. But Mom didn't know what I was talking about. She had forgotten – and forgiven – long ago.
That night, I fell asleep with a new appreciation for my gentle mother and her caring hands. And the guilt I had carried around for so long was nowhere to be found.