Times you were a jerk

Long ago, when my Uncle Jim was still alive, he shot and killed someone. He was a cop, my uncle was, and when the story first broke in the newspaper, they didn’t identify who the policeman was, and my first reaction was, Those damn racist cops.

Then I heard more of the story: The man who was shot had a history of mental illness and the police had been called to his house many times. The day of the shooting, he was acting erratically. He was, in fact, naked in a parking lot, incoherent. He jumped onto the police officer with something shiny in his hand. And that’s when the cop shot him and the man died.

Then I learned it was my uncle who was the policeman.

And even though nowadays I sometimes get lost in those Facebook videos they show, the ones where the police pull over black people for no discernable reason (the air freshener tree in the car was the most recent one), reasons no white person would get pulled over, and I get SO ANGRY at those videos, I still try to remember my uncle’s situation and keep in mind I often don’t always know the whole story.

Not that “I’m pulling you over because you have a tree on your mirror and, oh, do you have drugs?” situation. I don’t keep anything in mind re that one. That situation was some bullshit. Not once has a policeman asked me if I have drugs. Ironic! I’m littered with them! I’m weighed down with blue-speckled Dexies!

(In high school, the burnouts were forever taking blue-speckled Dexies and I had no idea what those were but always wished I had one. Like, a break-glass-in-case-of-needing-to-look-cool emergency one.)

My point is, there was a whole trial and everything my uncle had to go through, to prove he was defending his own life and doing what he was supposed to do in the line of duty. It was determined that, indeed, he was doing what he was supposed to do in the line of duty, and I found this out on my radio on the drive home from work that day. I called my uncle’s house and my cousin Jimmy answered in his teenage way.

“They all went to dinner,” he said, with the enthusiasm of a 17-year-old cat in the sun.

He told me where they went, which was a nice place sort of far out of town. I am ashamed to tell you I drove ALL THE WAY OUT THERE, in a LATHER, and STORMED into the restaurant where everyone was: my uncle, my Aunt Sue who the courts ended up blaming (you have to have been around here a long time to get that joke), my Aunt Kathy and Uncle Bill, my mother and stepfather, even my Uncle John and Aunt MaryEllen from Detroit were there.

There was champagne on the table. We aren’t an “order a bottle of champagne” family, but we were this day.

My Uncle Jim looked so happy.

“I just wanted to THANK everyone for not inviting ME,” I said tearily, then stomped back to my car.

Where, by the way, I waited for someone to come get me and no one did and then I drove all the damn-ass way home, crying.

Even telling you this story 27 years later I burn with shame. My Uncle Jim wasn’t happy a lot. Most of the time he was sort of downcast, although in his later years (not that they were that late. He died at 55.) he was hilarious. He was the king of inappropriate jokes. But I’m telling you that seeing his face all happy that day was a rare thing to see. And I had to come in and make everything about me.

Many years later I called him from my house in LA and apologized to him. I can’t remember if we actually spoke or if I left a message on his machine, but I know I did apologize. But it doesn’t matter. I still feel like an asshole when I recall this story.

And that is why I’ve gathered you here today. What story sticks in your head where you still hate something you did? Have you done anything about it? Do you think you’ll ever forgive yourself?

Do tell.

52 thoughts on “Times you were a jerk

  1. Very recent and it was not intentional but it hurts my heart. My dad came to help me move in June. He had never met the grandbaby. We went to dinner – my dad, my son and his wife and the grand. My dad and I were leaving the next morning. So during picture time several great photos were taken. I was broken up crying. No one remembered to take photos with my son’s wife. She’s not in one. Things had not been the greatest between her and me. I’ve apologized several times.

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  2. Oh I definitely have stories of times when I know I was less kind than I should have been. Nothing epic, but still cringe-worthy. That said, I think I am far, far more concerned about the times I have really stepped in it without knowing it. Like, is someone (or several someones) out there walking around with a horrible memory(ies) of me stamping all over their self-esteem or deeply wounding them with my words or deeds? I sincerely hope not, but who knows? So I think I tend to go overboard to filter myself and think before acting, which isn’t exactly healthy either.

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  3. I got married at 19. As I walked down the aisle, I paused and gave my maternal grandmother and my mother a rose. After I said, “I do,” I walked back down the aisle and paused to give my new mother-in-law a rose. What I didn’t do was give my step grandmother a rose. She was sitting next to my maternal grandmother and she got nada. I don’t know what I was thinking and I’m sure it must have hurt her terribly, but she never mentioned it to me. She never ever made me feel like a step grandchild. All she ever did was love and accept me and I snubbed her at my own wedding. That was 40 years ago and I still feel crappy about it.

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  4. I got pulled over for an air freshener in mid Michigan when I was like 17. Cop called it a “mirror obstruction” and he clearly was checking if I was backroads drinking. I wasn’t. Flashlight shining in my eyes asking where was I going? What was I doing on that road? Etc. Such a b.s. excuse to pull the car over.

    As for times I was a jerk… the time I remember was when I was a senior in h.s. and a girl I barely knew asked for my senior picture. It was customary to sign the back, and I was trying to think of something to say and I wrote “it was really fun trying out for softball with you.” Well, I made the team and she did not. And to this day I feel terrible. She probably thought “what a bitch.”

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  5. I can certainly think of times I was a jerk. Many of those times I was much younger – either a child/teen or very young adult, and generally they were when I was trying to be funny, and just went too far. I have forgiven myself for most of those for that exact reason. Young people don’t know the exact right thing to say or the exact right reaction to have because their brains are still growing, and the real adults around them know that.
    When I think about my own jerkiness and by reading the comments today, things seem to fall into two areas of deficiency: selflessness and mercy. We have so many chances to think of the other person first and to extend mercy when needed. I’ve certainly not always been good at either, especially mercy. As I get older, I’m getting better at it, but I have a long way to go. I’m grateful to everyone who shared a story. It can’t have been easy. I suspect each of us is harder on our self than necessary.

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  6. I was thinking about this just yesterday. I was in 9th grade, horribly shy. A friend persuaded me to volunteer with her at a center for children with cerebral palsy. One day I was paired with a boy named Bobby. He had no arms, malformed hands at his shoulders, and a beautiful face.

    Swimming pool, and he was doing pretty well at the edge with his kickboard. Then this macho guy in charge got in his face about doing without it. Bobby couldn’t bring himself to do it. “I guess I’m just a coward,” he said miserably.

    I think I mumbled “oh, no.” End of summer program. I wonder whether Bobby lived well, might possibly be alive yet. Sometimes I still daydream about telling off the lifeguard guy, though he was probably quite young and merely an idiot, and telling Bobby he was the bravest person I’ve ever met.

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  7. My mother had a stroke in the mid-90s and was an invalid for the next 7 years until her death. One time I had to pick her and my stepfather up from the airport in Denver and take them 60 or so miles to their home in Colorado Springs. After multiple times answering her “how much longer till we’re home?” question, i flippanntly said “about 5 minutes less than the last time you asked” or something equally snarky, and she didn’t ask again for the rest of the trip. I still cringe whenever I think about being so mean to my mother who I always thought hung the moon.

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  8. In my mid twenties, I was a teacher and newly pregnant with our first child. A good friend of mine who taught at the same school found out a month later that she was pregnant with her first child. We went to exercises classes together, and really bonded over our pregnancies. A month before I was due, she had her baby, two months early. The baby lived just a week and passed away. It was heartbreaking.

    I had my baby a month later (in May). In August, she and her husband were moving away and had a going away party at a local park. My husband and I were invited, but were told we had to come alone. I was all involved in the “we are a family now” mentality and was offended that we were told to come alone. Plus, all of the teachers that we taught with would be there and I wanted them to see my baby. I asked my mom’s advice and she said, “Of course you should take the baby.” (Why oh why did she say that?) I let my friend know that we’d come with the baby or would not be able to come. She said we could all come and then stopped by that afternoon to meet the baby before the picnic. We both shed some tears. That evening, my husband and I and the baby went to the picnic. She was kind and gracious and a little teary. Her husband not so much. Understandably.

    Looking back, I am appalled that I would put that poor couple through that situation, just three months after they had lost their baby. It was such a selfish thing to do. I’d like to go back and knock some sense into my 26 year old head. I think about it so often. I did write to her to apologize for my incredible insensitivity, years later. I didn’t hear back.

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    • I think you should let this go. I feel you did the right thing. They had to learn to live in the real world, sooner or later. It was better for them to face that –
      But, it looked like she chose to not accept it. So forgive her and let it go.

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      • I disagree, banne4. It was a grieving friend asking another friend for mercy, not some stranger demanding everyone else cater to their silly whims. Clearly you’ve never lost a child…

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        • I have lost a child and a grandchild. I am just saying that – at some point we have to learn to tolerate the reality that no one can understand what it feels like to lose a child. I have suffered through this now for almost 20 years and it never ever goes away. The pain is always there. But I have to associate with others and so sometimes – I have to tolerate others and how they choose to do things. I cannot control the world but I can protect my own heart.

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  9. After the death of my father, it fell to me to care for my ailing mom. She was sick in some way or other my entire life, so I had grown accustomed to there always being some emergency where mom was concerned. At this point, I had been her sole Caregiver for 3+ years, and boy I was tired. Caregiver is a thankless position. Anyway, she was in the hospital, again. I would go every day and sit with her for 8 or more hours daily, even though she was being given excellent care by the nurses. I was a dutiful daughter! On this occasion, she was clearly going to be in for a few days, but I had been assured by the doctors that she was stable. So, when friends in Oklahoma invited my husband and I for a weekend visit, I jumped at the chance to get out of town for a few days. She was, after all, being looked after. However, when I approached her about the fact that I was going out of town for the weekend, she wept and I just got furious, feeling like she was being manipulative and possessive, not wanting for me to get a break. She told me she was going to die that weekend! If I left, this would be the last time I would see her alive. OH! Y’all. I was awful. I accused her of never allowing me to have any time away from her, and that I was just sick of being tied down all the damn time. We were both crying as I made my departure. Friday evening, we went to Oklahoma. Don’t you know that I got a phone call at 8am on Saturday morning that she’d had a massive coronary. The doctor stated that they had stabilized her, but that I should come straight away as she likely was going to make her transition soon. I didn’t even pack my belongings. We just jumped into the car to try to get back home. I was barreling down the highway @100mph (seriously, I was) when I received the call that she was gone. This was 16 years ago, and I have never for one day been able to forgive myself.

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    • I’m so sorry. I hope that you can remember all of the wonderful things you did for your mom, and know that those are the thoughts she carried of you. She knew you very well, and knew you loved her. She probably felt guilty for trying to make you feel guilty and stay, as she had time to ponder it after you left.

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    • I’m so sorry. Try not to let years of being there for her be diminished; as a caregiver for my 87 y/o mom, I know that you always feel like you’re not doing enough. You needed to take care of yourself too (and yes, you hear that all the time, but you don’t really believe it). Your mother’s death would have happened if you were right there or 400 miles away. I hope you allow yourself some peace.

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  10. When I was little I could be what you might call… bratty. Every year my dad would take me to the Hallmark store before Christmas so I could pick out our family’s yearly ornament (my father is the SWEETEST man on earth, like maybe an actual saint). I DISTINCTLY remember my dad showing me an ornament I knew he liked and I was a JERK about it. Demanding instead to get one with these two little mice blowing a heart shaped bubble with the year on it. He was sweet and let me have my way and I STILL feel awful about it. I have kept that ornament on my tree as an adult so I never forget what a sweet dad I have and remember to try not to be such an asshole.

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  11. I KNOW I have done cringe worthy stuff, but for the life of me I can’t come up with one now.
    It’s like my brain is trying to protect me from shame. I’m sure I’ll think of them tonight around 12 AM and lie awake in shame.

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  12. I am now 55 years old but when I was 6, my baby brother, who was 3, broke my toy. He wasn’t supposed to be playing with it but did anyway and when he came to show me that he broke it, I (gulp!) picked him up and tossed him against a wall. He fell down and just cried. Oh, it killed me! I ran to him and hugged him so hard and rocked him until he stopped crying. Hated myself! So much! Years later I even confessed it to my Mom because I still carried that guilt with me. She told me she’s sure I didn’t hurt him because I wasn’t very big myself. So, I asked him and he said he doesn’t remember it at all. I apologized and he laughed. I still look at him and think how could I be so mean to such a sweet kid? Still hate myself.

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  13. So many things I regret saying or doing.. I wish I could reply to each of the comments above and help everyone feel better for their regrets too. Shame isn’t helpful to carry around. Doesn’t stop me….but yeah.

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  14. One time when I was probably around 10, my mother wanted to deliver cookies to my art teacher for Christmas and asked me to take them in to her. I always felt like she was a kind of creepy old lady(she wasn’t) and didn’t want to and made a big fuss so mom got out to take them in. It was icy and you can guess what happened. Instant regret. Still feel really bad about that one 50ish years later.

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  15. My mom made a comment on my wedding day that I wasn’t wearing panty hose. 37 years ago it must have been a thing. It was hot, my legs were covered by my dress but I was a smartass and said “I’m a big girl now, I can make my own decisions” She got tears in her eyes. I regret making my mom cry.

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    • Your Mom probably regretted saying something seemingly petty on your wedding day. Your reply reminded her of how adult you’d become. Weddings are hard on a mama.

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  16. ….I regret losing my temper with my kids when I was raising them as a single mom. But I mostly was pretty even tempered and a joke/pranking mom (in my version of the past). I now try to be the chill mom as they are adults in the high 20s and early 30s. But I still have a weird sense of humor. And I’ve learned to be more non judgemental.

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  17. I have so many but most of them involved my mother who died in 2006 before I got the chance to apologize. The biggest one was my parents divorce, my dad had an affair but my 16 year old self blamed my mom saying I didn’t blame dad because she was such a bitch. Now I can see my mom probably was a bitch because her marriage was falling apart. And there would be times after school where I was sitting on my butt watching tv and would get so ANNOYED that she was trying to vacuum. Flash forward to doing the same thing and no kids offering to help! One time the last Christmas with my mom my brother and I were going out for drinks. My mom was trying to nap as she had to go into to work that night. Now it already sucks working holidays and my mom’s father died a few months back. When I went to say goodbye to my mom she was crying oh and I was such a jerk about it. I was so mad that she was being annoying. I didn’t have a lick of compassion for her. Then there is one that doesn’t involve my mom, I worked as a toll collector and a woman’s car died in my lane. I told her, you have to get it out of my lane…. she explained she was coming from chemo treatment and not feeling good. I did not help her, I made this poor cancer woman push her car out of my lane by herself.

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  18. Years ago Coach and I went to visit his parents in Florida when our two oldest boys were 3 and 1. We wanted to take a day trip to visit Disney World, but my father in law wanted to take Coach golfing. I planned to go to Disney with our 2 boys myself. My in laws would not allow it. Like, I was an adult! They did not want us to rent a car when we came to visit in order to save money, so we relied on them to transport us places and they wouldn’t let us use a car.

    My mother in law had tickets to see a play that day, so she left to meet her church group going to the play. I was home with my two little guys. This was before cell phones, so I called my mom back in Chicago using their landline to complain about not being able to take my kids to Disney. Apparently the church group tried to call that landline to tell my mother in law that they decided to change where they were meeting/picking people up, etc. She missed the meet up and missed the play because when she called home and asked if anyone had called about the play, I said ‘no.’ I had been on the phone so no one could have called, but I didn’t tell her that.

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  19. Somehow I’m the kind of person that people are always jerky TO. Or maybe I’m such a big jerk that I don’t even realize it… I’ll ask around.

    I always love Uncle Jim stories. It surprised me that you said he wasn’t happy much… I’ve always imagined him as a happy, fun-loving guy. The things you don’t know about people you don’t know…

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  20. A dear friend confided a secret to me when we were in our 20’s. I was very afraid for her and told our other 2 Dear friends, out of genuine concern. One of them told everybody else. My friend has never spoken to me since and that was 38 years ago. I have apologized, both verbally and in writing, but she will not forgive me. Still makes me sad and I wish I had kept my mouth shut!

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  21. My daughter gets on my facebook, she doesn’t want her own. Well she was in a group that we both loved and apparently I mist have said somethi g to get kicked out. I don’t know what it was but I feel terrible that I could say something so hurtful and in the process hurt my daughter.

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    • Are you talking about my page on Facebook? I thought she got hacked. There were two pictures in a row that when you clicked on them showed a man’s bits, and people reported it and I thought, Oh, dear. She’s been hacked.

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      • Yes, the first one did show man parts but I did put a warning up, the next one was actually a dog thats why I didn’t put up a warning. Well I’m sorry I offended people. She asked me what I said, and for the life of me I couldn’t remember saying anything. I thought the picture was funny.

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  22. There are so many that I don’t know where to begin. Most of the recent ones involve the way I treated my mentally ill brother in law. We had to take him in a couple of years ago after his parents died. Mostly I was (and still am) mad at my in-laws for not providing for their own son and leaving that burden to my husband. It was a difficult time and I feel bad for not doing a better job at being compassionate and understanding. He always appeared to be better off than he was and he lived with us for a long time before I even realized that. Although he was very capable of being sneaky and lying there were many times that I got mad at him when I should have been more understanding. He passed away about a month ago and I have a ton of guilt about the whole situation.

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  23. My parents were going through a terrible ugly divorce and my Dad was cheating. I’m an only kid and he played me horribly to take his side. At one point I was feeling bad for him and my Mom was sick at the time and she was determined to end his manipulation, etc and was moving forward with the divorce. I said something along the lines of ” go ahead and get your damn divorce then”. And then I left and went to my boyfriends house, acting like a dick the whole time. She died that night and the guilt has been a weight on me every day for the last 28 years that I spoke to my Mom ( and my best Friend) that way. It’s shaped a lot of who I am today. Shame doesn’t even come close to what I feel.

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  24. I let my grandmother shovel snow and pull weeds when my lazy eighteen, nineteen and twenty year old ass should have been doing it. I lived with her and my grandfather who had a bad heart and couldn’t help her.

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  25. Lovely post Coot.

    My story is long and protracted. I will just say that I was an asshole to my niece at my mothers funeral. I apologized but I still ashamed I treated her that way. We were all greiving.

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  26. I don’t remember any off hand but there have been plenty. Similar to your where I made something all about me when it had nothing to do with me.

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  27. I’d like to say this happened when I was young and dumb, but I can see myself doing it today, so . . .

    I was living in Tampa and going through one of those times I felt I should get in shape, so I was getting up at the crack of dawn and running on Bayshore Blvd. As I crossed the street to get back home, a car behind me beeped its horn. Without looking to see who it was or what they could possibly want, I turned around with both middle fingers flying and yelled “Pedestrians have the right-of-way, asshole!”

    Then I saw the driver was a friend of my aunt’s and she was waving hello to me.

    I half-heartedly waved at her as she sped away.

    Over the next few weeks,I kept looking for her to apologize, but she started running on a different part of Bayshore – to avoid me? And then my husband and I moved to NC and I never saw her again. I didn’t want to say anything to my aunt about what I had done, because I was embarrassed.

    Of course, I’ve never forgotten it and this incident is the first that comes to mind when a question like this is asked.

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  28. OMG I have SO MANY. I am a Leo, a middle child, and from a divorced family. I could’ve made pretty much anything be about me, when I was a younger asshole. I try very hard to not be an asshole now.

    You called Uncle Jim and apologized for younger jerk you. A lot of people wouldn’t have done that. So you’re not such a jerk, after all.

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  29. The first incident that comes to mind, about a month after my dad died I went by my mom’s house on a Saturday morning. She was at the other end of the house, which wasn’t that large, running the vacuum. I yelled to her, but she didn’t hear me, so I unplugged the vacuum. She yelled at my brother, who was still living at home, to plug the vacuum back in, we (my, my brother and husband) all thought it was so funny that she was yelling at my brother, she came charging into the room sobbing, I just thought she was furious about the vacuum being unplugged. Looking back she was sobbing because of the loss of my dad, she was grieving, hurting and sobbing. I was too young to realize what was really going on at the time. At 20 years old you don’t know squat, but you think you know everything. I’m sorry I never apologized for that incident.
    Tee

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  30. Once, about 25 years ago, we had a huge flood in our area. This was before cell phones were an must have. I worked for a social service agency and the group home I was house manager for was flooded in. After going to check on my poor overnight staff who ended up being stranded there for 3 days and nights (she was in an upstairs window and I was on higher ground in the middle of the road. We shouted back and forth to each other) I was headed to a relatives house whose basement was flooded. My husband had been there all day helping. I stopped at the grocery store and bought food to feed everyone (because flood and no electricity). When I got there someone had run to McDonalds and bought lunch but nothing for me. I was livid. I threw a fit, threw my groceries down on the table and stormed out. It makes me burn with shame and embarrassment every time I think about it.

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  31. There are so many stories of me being snotty to my parents. One of them was when I was about 5 and my mom asked me for a bite of my candy bar and I said YOU ALWAYS WANT WHAT I HAVE!!! Now I wonder if it was because we didn’t have much money so she bought it for me instead of herself ugh!! I was so bummed when I didn’t get a car for Christmas after I turned 16 and I was so ungrateful and again we didn’t have much money. I was such a brat!

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    • This made me remember I complained to my Dad that I got only got a $ 400.00 cello while my friend got one for $1000.00. He didn’t say anything. (Like you ungrateful brat) I think he felt bad about it. Awful.

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