Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Microstory 1853: What I Didn’t Do, And What I Did

It’s the saddest thing. When you’re dying, you’re supposed to reflect on your friends and family. Some say they should only be happy memories, while others say everything is just jumbled together. But that’s not what’s happening to me. I’m focusing on a single memory that has kind of haunted me for my whole life since it happened. I guess I’ll start at the end, because it might help explain why that particular memory managed to rise to the surface, and outshine all others. Yesterday, my grandchildren wanted to take me out for what I think everyone knew was going to be a final decent meal. I don’t think they thought I was going to actually kick the buck the next morning, or they probably would have just huddled around my bed, and said goodbye. They knew I would leave them soon, though, and it was important that they see me out with fanfare. Now, I don’t think the incident at the restaurant is what killed me, but I guess it’s not too crazy to think that a part of me decided that my life wouldn’t get better after that, so if I wanted to end on a high note, this was the time to do it. I’m making it sound like it was a happy moment, aren’t I, but I did call it an incident, if you remember, and there’s a reason for that. So there I was, sitting in my wheelchair at the booth with my whole family. They were talking mostly amongst themselves. They don’t know how to talk to me anymore, and the younger ones never did. They’re all into computers, and celebrities I never heard of, but I don’t feel distressed, because I enjoy the company just the same. I don’t hate the future, I just didn’t work very hard to keep in touch. I think I did just fine. Man, I’m going on a lot of tangents, aren’t I? The story is that I lost interest in the conversation, and ended up eavesdropping on a mother scolding her daughter for wanting some cake.

Now, far be it for me to decide what this little girl is allowed to have, but it became clear as I listened in that she wasn’t allowed to have the cake, not because it cost too much, or because it would spoil her dinner, but because the mother thought she was too fat. I just had to say something, even though it was none of my business. And the reason is because about thirty years ago, I didn’t say anything in a similar situation, and I always regretted it. A man came into the restaurant while I was having dinner with my family, not unlike the last lunch yesterday. He was very obviously homeless. Unkempt, many layers of clothing in fairly late spring, with a smell. A businessman in a really good mood had just given him a hundred dollar bill, and he wanted to treat himself. Some people stared, clearly not wanting him to be there at all, but one particular man started scolding him for wasting the money on a decadent meal when he really ought to have been saving up, and being frugal. I was a coward, and I didn’t say a word. I didn’t think I had the right. My youngest daughter spoke up, though, and I was so proud of her. As it turned out, the whole thing had been staged. They were filming a TV show where they set up these stressful situations to see how people would react. I basically failed the test, and it wasn’t that I embarrassed myself on national television. It was just that it could have been real, and in many ways, it was real, because not everyone in the restaurant was in on the act. No one blamed me for not standing up for the man—and of course, no one else did, except for my daughter—but I felt bad about it anyway. So that’s why I felt compelled to inject myself in that mother-daughter argument yesterday. It was like my redeeming moment. Huh, you know what, I guess I am reflecting on my family.

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