Thursday, July 29, 2010

Long Overdue, but Never too Late

I just checked the last name off my list. It wasn't a long list, but it was an important one, a haunting one.

The List of People to Apologize to for Being a Horrid Person.

There were two people on that list (many will probably dispute that number, and maybe I should have other lists like "People to Apologize to for Being Mean" or "People to Apologize to for Being Critical" and so forth, but this Horrid category has really pressed upon me.) Both of them were boys I knew in high school.

The first one's name was Paul. He was a sturdy Italian guy with long, thick, black curls all over his head. People called him the Italian Stallion, and we crossed paths during our years at Pennsauken High, but in our senior year, he sat behind me in American Government class. He was totally in love with me. Smitten. And I was a complete witch to him.

"I'm going to marry you, Jenna Van Sciver," he would coo over my shoulder. "I will love you forever and you will bear my children."

And I would snap my head around and in my snottiest voice I would say, "If you were the last person on earth I wouldn't marry you, Paul. Never in a million years."

It went on like that all year. I even got meaner. But he never budged. In fact, he almost seemed to like toying with me, egging me on, getting any kind of reaction from me. He tried to date me, tried to ask me to dances, tried to get to know me, and all I did was shoot him down, thinking he was so beneath me.

He found me on Facebook earlier in the year. He told me in a message that he was happy to see my face and that I was still beautiful and he loved seeing pictures of my family. He was genuinely nice to me--even though I didn't deserve it. I wrote him back a long, long overdue apology. He said he didn't even remember all of that, but was thankful anyway, and felt bad that I'd carried that around for so long. Still, so kind. I owed him that apology. And I felt supremely grateful that the internet made it possible.

But there was another guy on that list. Phil. Phil was in my Stake, but attended a different high school. I saw him at Stake dances and watched him work the room with innocent kindness and a love of life. I felt more sorry for him. In my mind, he wasn't one of the cool kids. He made up for it with enthusiasm, but everyone knew he was different. He was short. He wore Coke-bottle glasses that magnified his eyes beyond proportion, and he was covered in acne. His father did work with my father, and I kind of got cornered into accepting the invitation to go with Phil to his Senior Prom. As a favor. But I didn't feel favored and in fact, I was grumpy and spoiled about the whole thing. I had a tall and handsome boyfriend in my school, and the truth was that I felt like I was too good to be seen with someone like Phil. I hate to admit that about myself, but it's true. Phil was a much better person inside than I will ever be, but at seventeen years old, I only cared about image.

We went to his prom. I was a wretch the entire night. He tried and tried to cheer me up, but to no avail. I picked at my food, I felt sick to my stomach, and I remember him saying to me that he'd never seen anyone have such a hard time smiling before. I acted like a spoiled brat and I just wanted to go home. He'd taken a complete slug to prom, and I ruined it for him.

I have never shaken my remorse and regret over that. For many, many years I've tried to find Phil on the internet. My life experience had only deepened my sorrow. Here I'd partnered with men who were in appearance what a good man should be, but who found it difficult to treat me with any kind of tenderness or kindness or loyalty. I had placed way, way too much importance on unimportant things. I wanted to tell Phil. But I couldn't find him.

Until now. I was visiting an old friend's Facebook page from my old stake growing up, and I saw that Phil had made a comment. I was elated! I clicked on over to his page and browsed through his pictures. He is married now, has a daughter. He looks happy. I sent him a friend request, and held my breath. I shouldn't have. He accepted almost immediately.

Today, I wrote him that long overdue letter. I apologized for my horrid, wretched behavior at his prom, for ruining that special night for him, and for judging him unfairly. I told him that I would understand if his heart was completely hardened toward me, but that I sincerely wanted him to know how sorry I've been all these years, and I begged his forgiveness.

I don't deserve it, but I have no doubt that he'll freely give it. In humble, genuine Phil style.

Ever teaching me by example.


Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

I've been lucky too, in being able to send out overdue apologies and thank you's. Also, in receiving one or two. Annoying at times it may be, but the internet and facebook in particular have been avenues to healing in my life.

Abby said...

It's funny you bring this up because lately I've been having those pressing "apologize to this person" thoughts. Whether they accept it or not..I feel like it needs to be awkward as it may be to write (part of me feels like I have destroyed the path an ex boyfriend's life could have gone. I feel guilty.). This person probably doesn't think anything of it anymore (he e-mailed me after his mother died suddenly..and then again when his sister also passed very suddenly soon after. We're still friendly on Facebook..but there's a total elephant in the room. I'm sure you know the one.) and here I am with all of my "what if's".

Thanks for the nudge, sis and I'm so glad you've gotten your horrids off your shoulders. <3

Braden Bell said...

Jenna, I admire you for doing this! That was painful to read for me just because I wasn't very mature or nice in high school and have a lot of those unpleasant memories, too! However, that first guy--who wanted to marry you and have children with you--that might be just a bit over the top. Your reaction was not totally inappropriate!

Anonymous said...


I love your blog. I just found it today by accident. A dear friend of mine committed suicide on Monday. Somehow the honesty of your blog touched me. I don't know what all you have been through, but I hear grace in your voice (written). You have learned grace and you are sharing it. Thanks