Tag Archives: forgiveness

pippa’s papers and the art of forgiveness

i was extremely nervous about seeing f2fb friend #167 meg kafalas for two reasons.  i had flown into new york the day before and from there took the acela express amtrak train.  i hadn’t seen her in twenty years.  what if i didn’t recognize her?

but as the escalator wafted me up to the providence, rhode island station waiting room, i saw a diminutive woman.  sleek black hair.  bright red lipstick.  capri pants and a sweater worn with the sort of chic that only the french and my cousin meg kafalas could pull off. 

“you look exactly the same,”  i said.  well, except that she wore adorable needlepoint slippers instead of her once favorite black ribbon ferragamos.


we got in her car and she gave me a tour of providence which was a decidedly short tour because providence is a town decidedly short on real estate.  we decamped to her store pippa’s papers which sells chic stationery–it’s motto is “your own initials are enough” and you can shop there at pippaspapers.com

we had first met twenty five years ago when i found my biological father justin (f2fb friend #30) and my grandfather fritz leiber.  i was very interested in meeting every family member, so fritz gave me the address of a cousin betty who lived in chicago.  i wrote to her.  i got a call from her daughter meg. .  . . .

“hi, i’m your second cousin once removed,” she said.  “and i have some bad news.  you wrote to my mother, but she died before the letter was delivered.”

meg’s mother and father died within months of each other.  we became close but i little realized how their deaths devastated her.  to me and to others, she presented a “facebook profile picture” that was confident, cheerful and chic.  but when she was alone, she struggled.  at one point, she went away and we lost touch.  it was only because of facebook that we came together.

i apologized to her at lunch for not having been more help.  i always thought she didn’t need any.  i never saw beyond her profile picture.  and she forgave me with a generous heart.  she has become the very happy person she was meant to be.  nobody gets to jump very high if their feet haven’t hit the floor.

then we went to pick out stationery.  i have a lot of thank you notes to write–to people who have been so kind to see me, people who have encouraged me, people who have sympathized when i have faltered. 

every single day this year, i have had 1) a technical problem and 2) a geography lesson.  my technical problem is i can’t upload pictures i took of rhode island so just imagine a charming quaint little state and several pictures of meg and me.  my geography lesson?  that’s what i call it when i get lost. 

let’s see me make it from rhode island to boston and then to new york–

thirty one years ago i did something awful, but now i’m forgiven by my facebook friend #71

meeting every facebook friend means i get surprised sometimes, by an unexpected hobby or talent, by a challenge someone faces with courage and grace, by a secret heretofore unknown. yesterday, i was surprised by something awful i did thirty one years ago. something i have only recently been forgiven for.

i went to naperville north high school and was friends with bonnie bradlee. bonnie was funny, bright, and we “got” each other. she also didn’t seem to mind the strictures mrs. patrick put on my life–i couldn’t see friends outside of school. bonnie and i shared books, ideas, and we both had dreams. bonnie wanted to join the army. i was a princess who had been put up for adoption to shield me from enemies of the throne and one day i wanted to reclaim that country, whatever it was. i sure hoped it was an english speaking country, because i wasn’t doing very well in french class.

at the end of our sophomore year, things came to a boil in the patrick household. i ran away from home. i dropped out of high school. i was briefly in a juvenile detention center and was also briefly in a psyche ward full of other runaways. i ended up dropping out of high school and studied at north central college. that journey is a long one but the story here is about bonnie.

she finished high school. was rejected by the army–from all the branches of the military–because she has poor hearing in one ear. she was crushed. her life was spiraling. she even contemplated suicide. she asked me for help. i was nineteen and unsure of what was the best thing, but i knew dr. schwarz, the psychiatrist from the psyche ward i had spent two months in. i took her to see schwarz. schwarz immediately advised hospitalization, saying he was sure that her depression was a life threatening matter. i helped bonnie get admitted to the hospital. then she gave me her apartment key and told me to clean up her stuff. especially anything drug related, as her father was a police officer.

but my idea of cleaning was to basically to get rid of just about anything. a full apartment became a few garbage bags of stuff.

bonnie got out of the hospital at some point. i don’t really remember anything about our interactions then–in particular she recalls our last meeting as being very tense and i don’t remember it at all. i graduated college and moved to chicago. she worked at a variety of jobs and cared for her parents. five years ago she came to christ. or perhaps christ came to her. she is a happy, beautiful, settled woman who celebrates everyday the gift of salvation. she has also forgiven me. until yesterday when i saw her, i didn’t realize that i needed her forgiveness. i am grateful for that.

although she was upset with me, she was surprised herself by the fact that her hospitalization had a benefit that came to others. a few years ago, she was at a christian retreat. she was taking a few moments to dance in the rain, a celebration of her love for christ. as she finished dancing she noticed that she was being observed by a woman who was in obvious distress. the woman explained she had just gotten out of a hospital where she had been treated for addiction. her life was a mess because her husband was still a user. bonnie was able to use the experience of having been in a psyche hospital to relate to this woman. bonnie got help for her. it was a turn around for the woman, indirectly made possible by bonnie’s life experiences, directly made possible by bonnie’s generous nature.

i know i’m going to be surprised again, sometimes in ways that will make me feel bad about myself. for a few hours after i saw bonnie, i had a case of the guilts. did that hospitalization do more harm than good? was my scorched earth policy on her apartment a bad thing? had i caused bonnie to get off course in her life? this morning i’m trying to forgive myself. that might take a while.

make sure to meet bonnie yourself at menjesus.wordpress.com!!!!