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STORY: Apologies Unlock

Abisa's mom had lived with him in L.A. for the past year and a half, since she lost her house in Johannesburg, South Africa.

"Mom! No!" he yelled... loudly. "Mom, put that down. It's very expensive."

She yelled right back, "You fill your house with things that you can't even touch!"

"Because I like good art! That was made by Basquiat!"

"Good for whoever that is, but you won't even tidy your dirty soccer shorts on the floor and your smelly pipe and your beer cans on the table right underneath it?!"

"I can clean all that up in one minute if people come over."

She turned directly to him and pointed up at his face, "Who are you trying to impress, my son!? I love the real you! The real you I love."

"It's L.A. mom." His voice was still high. "People judge." He folded his arms. "And Mom, art is a good investment!"

"You pay thousands for that when you won't even fix the plumbing in the upstairs bathroom?"

"I'm fucking done with you. Mom, it's my house." He pointed up the stairs, "Go back to your room. I don't want you in my space anymore!"

She gave him a long, stern look, pulled up her skirts, trotted up the staircase and slipped away into her bedroom.

Abisa stood over his kitchen counter, fuming. This was the third blowup this week. How did she get so under my skin in three effin minutes? He put a K-cup into the coffee machine and pushed brew. He grasped the counter with both hands. She has no right to come into my house... As the machine whirred and started to brew, he had a thought, but is she right?

"No! Of course not!" he hissed to himself. He pulled open the drawer for a spoon and noticed she had cleaned the residues in the corners of the drawer and organized it beautifully. He never cleaned things that wouldn't be seen.

Maybe she was kind of right. And then another thought, She just cares for you.

He fought with himself as he swung the refrigerator door open and found the milk. And then he had another thought, Apologize to her.

He shook his head, "Hmm Hmm. No way." He had had this same, strangely strong, random thought after both of the last two blowups. "I just can't, God," he whispered.

He leaned on the counter and poured the milk into the mug next to the stream of coffee coming out of the Keurig.

It just seemed impossible to apologize to her. She needed to know it was his house she was in and so she had to abide by his rules. He suddenly remembered his father saying basically the same thing to him when he was growing up. My house, my rules. And he remembered his father's wrath when he came home and things were unclean, though he was messier than all his kids. Abisa remembered his mother saying it was her mess more than once, taking the wrath from Abisa and his brothers.

The coffee dribbled to a stop. He picked it up, held the warm mub with both hands below his face.

He floated through the kitchen in a daze, arguing with himself. He stopped when he saw his mother in the entryway again. She was picking up his shorts and his pipe and the cans. She turned to him, not able to meet his eyes.

He sighed, "What, mom?"

"You cursed at me."

He heard the thought again, apologize. How could he?! God, you know I can't do it!

She tripped on her skirt and fell to her knees. The pipe and a beer can fell from her arms and clattered on the cold tile.

"Mo-o-o-om," He knelt down to help pick her up. But he stopped and stayed down with her. Her eyes were closed. She was crying. He set down his coffee mug.


He took a deep breath, grit his teeth, and reluctantly said it, "I'm sorry about that, mom."

It seemed to loosen her up the slightest amount, and she finally was able to meet his eyes. When she found what she was looking for she said quietly, "It reminded me of when your father would get home."

"Oh..." Abisa was caught off guard. Everyone had loved his father in the village and in the church but behind closed doors Abisa's mother and brothers saw a violent angry man. Abisa had never seen this similarity before a few minutes ago. And now his mom saw it too. As stubborn as he was, a realization like this made him want to change instantly.

"I think I started cleaning when you were mad at me," she mumbled as she gestured to his things in her arms. "like I used to do when he came home and yelled at us for a dirty house--"

"Get up, mom." he was a little impatient.

She stopped her story as he helped her up. He could tell she closed up again.

Apologize for the rest, He heard. Was this just his OCD? He didn't want to even consider it. He already apologized once. Apologize before it's too late.

As she stood there he looked at her shut, crying eyes. No longer willing to talk. What else was she holding?

Apologize. He clamped his jaw and took a deep brave breath through his nose.

"I'm-- I'm sorry I yelled at you for trying to help. It's just, I paid $10,000 dollars for that piece and--"

"I'm sorry too, little Abisa." She wiped her face with her apron. "I think I'm just worried you're looking more and more like him."

"No, you're wrong, mother!" He yelled, "I've worked very hard not to look like him!"

She very viscerally closed up again.


Abisa rolled his eyes and his head in exasperation. He grit his teeth and and waves of resistance rolled over his face. Slowly, awkwardly, He put his head in his hand and slowly crumpled to his knees. He put his face into her apron, grasped her legs and whispered, "I'm sorry, momma. I'm sorry I yelled at you, I'm afraid I'm becoming like him too."

She put her hands on her cheek and then she knelt down with him.

Her voice slipped into barely more than a whisper. "It terrifies me because I don't want you to die like he did."

He was suddenly listening intently. His father's death had been somewhat of a mystery. He put his hand on her hand.

This gave her strength to take a shaky breath and she continued. "He had debts from that expensive car and other things. He showed his true self to those who were too close to leave him. He cheated with his best friend's wife, the best friend who also had lent him much of the money for his car and for the third story on the house.

"Biguma?" Abisa muttered. He knew there had been some sort of falling out days before his father died.

She continued whispering as if this secret had built up behind her face for decades, like water through a widening crack in a dam, "But when your father was out late with that woman, Biguma waited for him just outside our walls. When Biguma saw him get out of his own wife's car and walk toward the house, he stabbed him."

"Oh, mother, I'm sorry."

After a breath she continued, "Biguma was not the only one he had betrayed. Anyone of them would have been justified in killing him. I did not tell because I knew this was your father's just reward. He deceived those closest to him, in the shadows. He was killed by one closest to him, in the shadows.

"Mom, I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry." The apologies were coming fast now. "Mom, I'm so sorry he did that to you. I'm sorry you had to see father be killed. I'm so sorry for being like him, and I'm sorry for getting angry at you for just wanting to make me not be like him."

They cried, cheek to dripping cheek for minutes after.

"I'm so, sorry, momma."


Apologies have the power to open up communication. The person usually replies, "I'm sorry too, I just..." and they tell us more about where they are coming from, and often things we didn't realize about ourselves. And this process not only softens and humbles us, it grows us with new wisdom and understanding. It takes bravery, but goodness like this is what bravery fights for.


Raw Spoon, Aug 5, 2023

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These BLOGS are usually inspired by messages I (or friends) feel we have heard from God. This is the nature of our God. Listen for how he may be speaking to you.

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