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A Newsman's Struggle to Forgive

In an excerpt from his new book, David Gregory recalls a painful childhood episode

David Gregory - How is your Faith

David Yellen

David Michael Gregory is an American television host, and former moderator of NBC News' Sunday morning talk show Meet the Press. He is the author of the forthcoming book, How's Your Faith?

In his new book How's Your Faith?, former Meet the Press moderator David Gregory describes his spiritual journey. Here, Gregory reveals a moment of healing with his mother. As a teenager in 1986, Gregory had been with his mother when she was arrested for drunk driving, capping her long struggle with alcohol through much of Gregory's childhood. She immediately joined AA and has since remained sober. But deep wounds remained:

One weekend soon after Beth and I had moved into a new house in D.C., I invited my mom to visit us there. I wanted Mom to see the house and spend time with the kids, but I also hoped to carve out some time for the two of us to sit and talk through what happened in the past and what it means for our relationship today. My spiritual journey invites me to think about how a deeper faith gives me new perspective on the life I've lived, and can help me reshape my closest relationships. And I wanted to talk about forgiveness. It's easy enough to say we have forgiven something in the past. I believed I had. But Mom had always told me she felt it would be impossible for me to truly let go of the fact that she had endangered me and acted recklessly. I wanted to find out: Had I actually let it go?

This was already going to be a hard conversation. What made it harder was that we couldn't find the physical space to have our heart-to-heart. On the first morning we'd set aside for it, the kids were ranging all over the house, restless between the school semester and camp. They had various friends over and seemed to need access to most of the rooms in the house.

David Gregory - How is your Faith

Courtesy David Gregory

David Gregory with mom

Mom and I ended up pulling a couple of kitchen chairs into a dimly lit, unfurnished basement room filled with unpacked boxes. She was game to do it — she had agreed — but she was not looking forward to the conversation.

We were both uncomfortable. In my straight-backed chair, I struggled to find a place to put my legs — I kept tucking them under me and then stretching them out again. The physical awkwardness of the setting matched the unwieldy discomfort of our conversation, which veered from the specific details of that day in April 1986 to the hurt feelings of the present with astonishing swiftness.

As tough as the conversation was for Mom, part of getting sober meant she had to get used to talking about the difficult things. "There's a code that goes along with getting sober, and part of it is that you're only as sick as your secrets," Mom says. She believes that once you name your secrets, you begin to own them. So for her, all this talking is not just worthwhile; it is what makes transformation happen.

I told her that for years, I've felt as though she has been pushing to be closer to me, needing me to give her more of myself. It's all about trying to make up for the past, I said. "You've said many times that you feel you lost me after you were arrested, Mom," I told her. "Do you think you have been acting out of sense of guilt?"

"Oh, there was always guilt," she responded. "I will never finish regretting that incident. It changed my life completely."

"Mostly for the better," I added.

"For the better — except with you," Mom said. "I don't think you will ever stop being angry at me."

Part of me would love to shut the door on the past. But it kept blowing open. This stuff kept coming up in different ways in my life. It was important to figure it out.

After Mom and I had been talking in the basement room for a while, I got up to get her a glass of water from the kitchen and stretch my legs. While I was upstairs, I took some time to check my phone and see what was going on with the kids. All the back and forth was emotionally exhausting, and, frankly, I just wanted to think about something else.

Eventually, I made my way back down to the basement room. And then I asked Mom the question straight out. "Do you think I have forgiven you for the arrest?"

"No. I don't think you have," she said. "I think because it's the focal point of who are you today. It's when you got tough."

"You mean you think I hold on to the grittiness that I developed because of living with your alcoholism as a teenager?" I asked.

"Yes," Mom replied. "Frankly, Davey, I have had to think a lot about forgiveness since I got sober. And I think it is used more as a word rather than an action. But since I've had my faith reactivated through the program, I've realized that it serves no purpose not to truly forgive."

She is aware that forgiving is not a simple process. "I think there is daily work on forgiveness," Mom said. "I don't think forgiveness is the end of anything. I think it's the beginning of all things."

I forgive my mother. I think that I can say that truthfully. The pride I take in her transformation makes it easier. The longer I live and make mistakes as a parent, I'm confronted by the humbling thought: What if my children don't forgive me? I'm doing my best. So was my mother. It's taken me years to get to the place where I can say, honestly, who am I to judge?

It is worth noting that the path was not always clear for my mother to be sober and present in my life and that of my children. Our future is now bigger than our past.

From How's Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey, by David Gregory. Copyright © 2015 by David Gregory. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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