Yesterday I was preparing the house for company which included cleaning and organizing the master bedroom. Strangely (because yes I’m an odd duck) it’s a room I rarely enter, that of my deceased mom. Her trinkets are still arranged on her bureau, and her empty perfume cat bottle still stands as a tribute to her days as an Avon saleswoman in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
But going in to the room reminds me of a former friend, a self-proclaimed thief, a woman who bragged about stealing and using people, usually people who trusted her and gave her access to their homes.
We worked together over sixteen years ago. She was intelligent and slender but caustic and sometimes verbally abusive. With my penchant for people watching and interest in human psychology she provided me with hours of amazement and sometimes embarrassment. Sometimes her rude comments put her on the edge of insubordination. But her work ethic was invaluable and almost flawless. On the other hand she was smart and could be funny. Over the years I heard her brag about stealing items, which to me were inconsequential, like toilet paper, anything she felt should be hers. To me her behavior was wrong and yet she never felt guilt.
When she retired and moved to Florida, in my naivety I thought that our thirteen years of friendship meant she could be trusted and I allowed her to stay temporarily at my home. It wasn’t long before I saw things were missing so I told her to leave. At that point she had taken my mom’s make-up, a fur hat, a camera, towels and who knows what else. I promptly had her arrested and was able to recover one thing.
Compassion means ‘a sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others’. I asked myself yesterday morning, why won’t I let her theft go? Why don’t I feel compassion for her, when she felt above everyone else, never feeling compassion herself for anyone? Why don’t I at least pity her?
In a twist of fate as she left my house she was having vision problems that were comprising her ability to see, requiring surgery and shots. For all her vanity and feelings of being above everyone else she was going blind. Does that make it easier for me to feel compassion? The imperfect side of me says no. The imperfect side of me realizes the thief’s mother and family had disowned her. The thief had no one who loved her. Yet the imperfect side of me feels no sympathy.
In the end I’m still imperfect, still feel pain from the event and I’m trying so hard to feel pity and sympathy for the woman. But, oh, it’s so hard and I’m not there yet. The imperfect side of me can’t let go because this thief stole from the one person in the world who loved me, my mother.