He was taking this shopping far too seriously. "It doesn't matter. I don't need a list, I already know what to get. I don't know why she bothers to write a list anyway." Maybe now he'd relax and play a bit. "She always gets the same thing," I went on, preparing another snowball. "Everybody in Zabar's knows what she gets. Every holiday breakfast, it's the same thing. Pumpernickel bread, brie, mango chutney, whitefish," I said, walking toward him. "Salmon roe, roasted red peppers, and a loaf of French bre -- " Bam! What felt like a boulder of snow covered my face and pushed me back onto my butt. Even before I'd had a chance to throw my latest bullet, he'd gotten me. I screamed, "I can't see! I can't see!" "You can see, Rob," he said, bending over to wipe the snow off my face. "Open your eyes, silly." "That hurt," I said. "It did not," he said, kissing my cold cheek. "You should have seen your face. Pow!" He laughed, pretending to fall back into the snow, mimicking the way I'd looked when his snow-bomb hit. Now I was laughing too. "You were so busy running your mouth, you didn't see it coming." There were times when I just loved his laughter, when it was warm and comforting. Those were the times when he was the very definition of a friend.
He pulled me to my feet, dusted off my coat, and hugged me tight. "You're cold," he said, holding my chilled hands in his to warm them. "I love you," he whispered in my ear. And with a loving pat on the butt, he said, "Let's go, Rob." "Hello? Hello? Robin, are you there?" The voice jolted me from my memory. I'd nearly forgotten that I had pressed the "send" button on my phone. I hesitated to answer ... but only for a brief moment.
"Mom, it's me." But of course she knew that already. The pounding of my heart made it hard to hear my own thoughts ... but there was only one thought that was truly important. I took a breath, a deep cleansing breath, and let it out. "Please forgive me." I'd already said I was sorry at least a thousand times over the years, and heaven knows I was sorry I'd brought him into her life. But there was something different about today. I had let go of the past and I had forgiven. I had forgiven Michael, and nothing is more empowering than the act of forgiving. True forgiveness is simply, purely redemptive. Forgiving had reminded me that my life was a gift from a far greater power than The Baddest Man on the Planet. Michael truly did not hold any power over my life, and he could not take away my living -- unless I allowed him to do that.
The things I intended to do, the living I was intended to do, all I was intended to be could never truly be taken away. That's true for all of us. I had forgiven Michael and I needed my mother to forgive me. She had been a fierce protector of the gate, and it was as if I had opened it and all hell broke loose.