Before our honeymoon to England, I bought a green London Fog coat for the trip. It was a medium weight, lined squall jacket, perfect for so many different weather days. It was good quality and lasted, both in condition and style (plus I generally don’t run after fashion trends so I knew I could wear this thing well into the 21st century) (in spite of what my kids might say about it once they grew up and found me wearing the same coat).
By the time the kids were born, the jacket was almost six years old and still in great shape. I really liked that green coat. Really. And we were so poor at that point, having a nice quality jacket was a real luxury.
On the day that Charlie was discharged from the hospital, I wore that coat. Jason had to be at work, so my dad came along to let me use his car and to help carry kids. Molly had been discharged four days before so we needed to take her back to the hospital with us to pick up Charlie, then take them both home. Though my parents had taken infant CPR classes, I still wanted Molly with me. She had oxygen and a monitor, so it was a bit of a project to transport her around. We couldn’t afford to buy our own car seats, so we used a rental program available through the hospital, paying $5 a year for each of the seats. A great deal, but they didn’t have handles for one-arm carrying nor did they fit into strollers. Molly was really too tiny for them, so we used a lot of rolled blankets to support her head and body. On the way to the hospital, my dad was in the back with her and her head flopped down — weak little neck that she had — cutting off her airway, so the alarm on her monitor started screaming. As calmly as possible, I instructed my dad from the front seat about getting her neck straightened out so she would breathe again. With eyes wide open with trepidation, he lifted her head. She pinked right up and the alarm stopped. Phew. Just another day in our household.
Going into the hospital, Molly and her seat had to be carried with two hands because there was no handle and we needed to make sure she stayed in a good position. You know, that breathing thing. When we went into the parent waiting area of the Neonatal ICU, I hung up my coat on the provided coat hangers. A small voice in my head told me to put the car keys into my trouser pocket instead of my coat pocket. For a brief second I thought that was a little weird. I always kept my keys in my coat pocket. But I didn’t argue with the voice and I just stuck them into my pants and went on with the program at hand, collecting my second of four children from the hospital where they had lived the previous five weeks since birth. All I wanted was for them to all be home already.
We went through all the discharge rigmarole and finally got Charlie checked out, in his car seat, wearing his portable oxygen and monitor, and set to leave. We were ready to go to the car so I went to retrieve my coat. And it was gone.
Of course I searched everywhere. It was nowhere to be found. When I talked to the staff and security about it, trying to find it then reporting it as stolen, they said, “Yeah, we’ve been having trouble with thefts in the parent waiting lounge. Some others have had their stuff taken too.”
Unbelievable! They knew someone was stealing from the parents of sickchildren and they had done nothing about it. They could have posted a sign at least! I was livid. My leather gloves (a gift from Jason, remnants of the days in Chicago when we could afford them) were in the pockets too. Plus some cash — which was really hard to come by at that point. I cursed the head of whoever it was who stole from me that day and added so much tension and difficulty to a day that was already full of emotions — like going home again without two of my babies.
Then I remembered the keys. They were in my pocket, not with the coat. The voice had told me to keep them with me. We were spared the worst of it by being able to drive home. We could have been stranded at the hospital for hours waiting for a locksmith or to arrange to get another set of keys, trying to take care of two premie babies who’d need to eat and be changed and cared for. The keys could have even been used to steal the car. But they hadn’t. We had transportation. I had to be grateful.
It was a weird lesson. Why didn’t the voice just tell me “some wicked lowlife thief is terrorizing parents at their most vulnerable so don’t leave your coat there”? Or maybe the voice could have exposed the thief, let him or her be caught in the act. So many possibilities, yet the one that occurred worked out well enough and we got Molly and Charlie safely home in a timely way. But man was I miffed. After that I looked at everyone I saw in the hospital with suspicion. And looked everywhere for a splash of green coat walking by. Except for when I was trying to convince myself someone needed it more than I did. Especially with a nice pair of leather gloves thrown in. And a bit of spending money. It left me with only old thin knit gloves with a hole in one finger. But maybe they were poorer than we were. Maybe they really needed a nice coat. So I should let it go. But maybe they just did it for a prank and threw it in a garbage bin for a good laugh.
No matter who is was, for whatever reason, I would never know. But if I didn’t let it go, if I forever remained angry, the thief would get me again. Eventually, I quit looking for people wearing my coat. Time moved on.
Last year I was wearing my replacement coat when I went to a coffee house to see a friend. I’d saved up for it and looked for a long time for just the right coat. I’d had one other squall jacket in between the two coats, but it had fallen apart pretty quickly. It wasn’t as nice. But this new one was perfect. Black and traditionally cut, it could pass for formal or casual. And it was very warm. And I had my leather gloves from my mother-in-law in the pockets, given to me several years before because she’d known the story of the stolen jacket. (I guess I rehashed it a few times.) Somehow at the coffee shop this black coat was also pinched. With my leather gloves. I don’t know when or how. I’d set it down on a counter next to us, but it was out of my sight. And it disappeared. All over again, I was upset and angry. Once again, someone had taken from me something that had been hard-won and appreciated. And it triggered in me some of the anger left over from the day Charlie came home.
It tells me how important forgiveness is. I’ll never know why or who did it, but I need to let it go. Not ignore it or talk myself into thinking they probably needed it more than I did. But to call it what it is and forgive the faceless person who took my coat (both of them) and had no right to it, no matter what the reason was. Once I do that for real, deep down, then I’ll have freedom. Then I can truly hope it is keeping someone warm somewhere and not mind that I didn’t give them permission to take my stuff. So Thief, I forgive you. I may not feel it all completely yet, but I’m stating it and that’s a right step.
With this good inner work, maybe next time someone steals my coat I’ll be ready to say, “Hey, want my shirt too?”
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