John D went into the hospital after a heart attack.
About the third week of decline, he was pretty certain he would die here, old, exhausted and alone. He thought he could be even more selfish than normal because he was in the hospital but a day and a half after being admitted, his family had left him, shedding any guilt with wags of their heads.
It was one of these late nights while grasping his chest, with no one to comfort him, he became a man of resolutions.
"God, if you can get me out of this alive, I won't be an ass hole anymore. I'll let Stephen use my truck for his business. I'll learn to be nice to Jenny's wife. And..." he coughed and swallowed, "I'll stop being unfaithful to Renee." He settled into his bed, truly repentant, and fell asleep.
The next day as the nurse read his charts she said, "Well, that's interesting, Mr. Dodson. Your numbers are looking surprisingly good." She looked up. "And you do too. Another day like this and we can send you home."
When John got home and was sitting alone for the first time in his man cave garage, he texted his latest fling and told her not to contact him any more. Then he called his son Stephen over, whose construction business was struggling and was in lack of a good truck.
John met his son in the driveway with two open beers. "I'm sorry I've kept this truck to myself, son, when I know you need one." He held his keys out, but his son hesitated. "Feel free to use it until your business gets its legs back," John said.
"I thought it was 'your baby.'" Stephen did air quotes with a skeptical tone.
"I know, I know. I guess you could say I had a moment in the hospital."
Stephen hesitantly took the keys.
John added, "But I'd appreciate if you park it here at my house at night so I can use it."
"Dad, you're like half an hour away. And you never use it." Stephen said.
John breathed in as he tried really hard to practice his new patience. "I know. But you don't really have space for it in your garage and I don't want it to be out on the damn street."
Later, on his way to the store in his Acura, John called up his daughter Jenny and said, "Hey, I'm sorry for not being very nice to you for a while. But I'd like to get to know your wife."
"I thought you hated her, dad. How do I know you won't still be completely mean to her, like you've always been?"
"I had one of those realization things in the hospital," he said. "I'd really like to... start over."
A week later his wife Renee brought him breakfast and sat across from him. She said dryly, "You haven't been on your phone as much lately. Did you decide to stop talking to certain people after your brush with death?" They both knew what she was inferring.
He nodded slightly and looked at her. He thought, she is so damn bitter toward me. She should be grateful. They ate in silence.
It was the second week when he dialed Stephen again. "Hey! You left your garbage all over in my truck! I thought I taught you to treat others' stuff like it's your own!"
"Sorry, Dad. I didn't think you'd see. I was a hurry to get to Jake's baseball game. I really am trying to treat it like my own."
John tried to muster patience, but in the end couldn't resist quipping, "I guess that was the problem." Then he hung up.
It was 10am and John sat awkwardly across from Jenny and Charlotte at his dining room table.
"So," John was struggling to be warm. "You're some kind of doctor, right Charlotte?"
"Yes, I help save the lives of women," She glanced at Jenny and hesitantly continued, "who have high risk pregnancies."
"By..." John's eyes became skeptical drills poised to drop. "Helping deliver the babies?"
"Um, well, not quite, Sir," She re-gripped her tea and took a breath. "We help them safely terminate their pregnancies."
John stood up. He looked at Jenny. "You brought a murderer into my house?!" He wouldn't look at Charlotte. "I was ready to overlook your-- your sexual confusion but this is abominable. Get out, both of you!"
After another phone conversation a week later his son didn't use the truck anymore because he told him, "Dad, I'd rather not use the truck if it's just gonna give you another excuse to yell at me."
And the only time he heard about Jenny now was when he overheard Renee talking to her. Something permanent had shifted there too.
By the third week John's body was fully recovered, physically. There were times he remembered his promise to God, and wondered what he could do about it. Nothing came to him. What if he didn't follow through? He hated what type of man that made him, but then commercials would come on. Eventually the conviction faded altogether.
"Hey, Renee! What are you doing?"
She poked her head in hopefully, and said, over the daytime TV show, "About to go to the store."
He was typing on his phone as he barked, "Bring me another beer."
She brought him a beer just because she didn't want to deal with any more harshness. He was back to how he always had been.
A few years later another heart attack took him to the hospital. When he was alone again he remembered he had been given a second chance, but hadn't held up his end of the deal. And instead of being surrounded by a forgiving family learning to love each other again, he died surrounded by a pack of regrets.
Raw Spoon, April 4, 2023
What desperate moment brought you to repent and commit to change? Did those resolutions drift because the desperation is no longer there? May we remind ourselves how ready we were to change, and recommit to it again.