As children we grow up using the word “because” as that single most ineffective way to explain ourselves by relying on one word that explains nothing:

Mother: “Why did you trip Allison at school?”

Daughter: “Because.”

Mother: “Because why?”

Daughter: “Because.”

Because becomes rooted as one of the most go-to words in our vocabularies. And even as full-fledged adults it’s not unusual to regress to our childhood and resort to the single word reply, which typically is amplified in a moment of heated impatience, and often preceded with the word “just”.

Daughter: “Give me one good reason why you won’t give Justin a second chance?”

Mother: “Because.”

Daughter: “Because why?”

Mother: “Just because!”

From out of the rubble of their disagreement the word because prevails and stomps its heavy foot in the face of the daughter, leaving behind an unfinished dialogue that has nowhere to go but six feet under. Realizing the conversation is dead, the 19-year-old daughter gathers her belongings and heads out the door to her car. She backs down the driveway in arrant disbelief that her mom could be so adamantly against Justin. As she pulls away, she sees her standing behind the screen door, with arms akimbo, a face of stone, and penetrating eyes that, all combined, sheer away any possibility of Mother, and leave an unbending matriarch.

*         *         *

From the beginning, their conversation went nowhere but down….

Daughter: “Headed out to a movie. Back later.”

Mother: “You and the girls?”

For a moment the daughter hesitates, then gambles on the slim chance that her mother might actually not be objectionable.

Daughter: “Actually no. Justin’s back in town”

Mother: “You can’t be serious.”

Justin. The leader of the pack. Always in cahoots with those she deemed the undesirables. Their compasses pointed to mischievous true north.

Mother: “You know that boy is a dead end.”

Daughter: “Mother, please don’t start this again. Justin’s not what you think he is.”

Mother: “Oh, you’re so right. Forgive me for forgetting how he nearly killed you driving his car into that brick wall. Forgive me for missing that minor detail.”

Daughter: “That’s not fair, mom. He swerved to avoid hitting the boy on the bike. He saved that boy’s life. And, no, he didn’t nearly kill me.”

Mother: “A boy who only you saw. The police report showed no one but you mentioned him. No boy was ever interviewed. Even he didn’t mention a boy. And you know why, don’t you?”

The daughter stood silent. Her mother was right. She had been the only one who saw the boy. She broke his hands free from the steering wheel and pulled downward, steering the car hard to the right, saving the boy’s life, and, in the process, sending the car into a blunt impact with the street’s curb. The car’s forward momentum surged onward before coming to a complete stop into the unyielding brick wall of a corner drug store.

He was drunk. He told the police he never saw a boy. He could’ve said he did, and gone with her story. It would’ve at least given him a dash of heroism, softening the critical and irate blows to follow. Though inebriated, he was coherent enough to do what was right: to stick with the truth.

Daughter: “That was a year ago, mother. He’s changed. He’s not that guy anymore.”

Mother: “Look at his father. He’s no different. You can’t deny influences.”

Daughter: “And you, mom—a person unwilling to give second chances—am I to be influenced by you?”

The strain of even thinking of Justin, burrowed beneath her skin like a relentless parasite. Long before he turned 20, she had seen his mischievous ways. The kid in grade school who thrived on instigation. She had pegged him early, and, once pegged, she was never one to forgive. Second chances didn’t have a prayer. Nonetheless, her daughter had raised a valid point. One that she didn’t want to agree with, but one that reverberated pronounced sense. But this conversation, this repeat of mother-daughter tension didn’t take long to make one sick of arguing. Sick of even having to consider her daughter’s point.

Mother: “Listen to me! Do not go out with him!”

Daughter: “Give me one good reason why you won’t give Justin a second chance?”

The matriarch knew it was best to be short and emphatic.

Mother: “Because.”

Daughter: “Because why?”

Mother: “Just because!!”

And at that moment, your 19-year-old daughter leaves. Separated by a screen door, you watch her with your heated eyes. Down the street, her car vanishes around a corner. Long before you can even close the door, you are nothing but an afterthought. She knows Justin’s story like no one else. She knows the sound of him crying frightened in the tight clutch of her consoling arms. She knows the misery he lives with daily, thinking about what if he had hit that boy on the bike? How could he possibly outlive such a tragedy? A life encased in regret.

How painful can a second chance be? How painful can it be to trust your daughter’s choice? Sometimes the most liberating moments can be setting someone else free, and the reasons for doing so are numerous.

And why should you do it?


Copyright Ros Hill 2016


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