A New Man

He tells me he needs to look sharp for a wedding. His first wife is getting remarried. He’s a nervous wreck. He wants her to see him at his absolute best.

I’m trying on pants. It’s a department store, and I need something for a party.

The dressing room isn’t big enough to see my reflection. I step outside to look at myself in the three-way mirror.

I hear voices. A conversation. A father and a child are in the stall next to me.

“Do these pants look okay?” the adult voice says.

“They look good, Dad,” the boy says.

“You sure? I really want your mom to like’em, they feel kinda big.”
“They’re good.”

“You don’t think they’re saggy? They seem saggy. You know what, I’ll look at them in the full mirror.”

He leaves the stall and I see the man behind the voice.

He’s bone skinny. And bald. I step aside so he can look into the mirror. He is inspecting the fit of his slacks.

“They do look a little big,” I offer.

“Really?” he says. “I KNEW it.”
He tries on another pair. They fit much better.

He tells me he needs to look sharp for a wedding. His first wife is getting remarried. He’s a nervous wreck. He wants her to see him at his absolute best.

And he doesn’t feel his best.

“I’ve lost twenty-three pounds, man,” he says. “All my friends say I look sick.”

That’s because he is sick. Colon cancer. He’s had two surgeries. He just finished chemo. He doesn’t want to talk about what he’s gone through, and it’s none of my business.

But he does say: “They tell you the nausea’s bad. Man, it’s worse than anything you’ll ever experience.”

Doctors just ran tests to see if treatments have gotten rid of it. He’s got an appointment on Monday to get the results.

He’s won’t say he’s worried about it—but he won’t say he isn’t, either.

“I’m just sick of it all,” he says. “I’ve gone through a lot, I’m so exhausted, keep wondering if I’m gonna even be here in a year.”
I can’t imagine.

His boy walks out of the dressing room. His father’s mood changes. He puts on a fake smile. He’s a new man, suddenly. From sick to superhero, in only a matter of seconds.

“Whatcha think of these pants, buddy?” he says to the kid.
The boy shrugs.

“Aw come on. We want your mother to see how spiffy Daddy can be.”

The man recruits the help of a female sales-associate. A woman with far better taste than yours truly—I couldn’t dress a salad at gunpoint.

She selects a black sport coat and black tie. He looks classy, not overdressed. He is dressed formally enough to watch his ex move on with her life.

He asks my opinion on his new get-up. I tell him it’s a nice suit.

He concurs.

After he redresses himself in everyday clothes, he bids me goodbye. “I appreciate all the help,” he says.

I wish him luck.

He thanks me and shakes my hand. So does his kid. They leave.

I’ll probably never see him again, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about him.

I am.

If you can hear me, God, please give that man good news on Monday.

25 comments

  1. Buck Godwin - August 7, 2017 1:34 pm

    God hears, Sean.

    Reply
    • Diann - August 7, 2017 9:54 pm

      Always!

      Reply
  2. Beth Thrift - August 7, 2017 1:48 pm

    Made me cry…again! You have a wonderful skill for bringing the reader along to feel what you feel in these situations. So glad my friend shared your column so I could sign up and enjoy it every day. Thank you…please keep doing what you’re doing.

    Reply
  3. Trudy :) - August 7, 2017 1:49 pm

    One never knows what a kind word or smile will do to encourage or boost another. When I was teaching high school English, I’d often tell my students right before the dismissal bell rang, “Please give someone one of your smiles today. It may be the only one they get for the day.” It was the end of the day and the end of class. When all the other students were gone, this one particular one came to my desk and said, “Mz. R., your smile today was the only one I got since I got here at school. It made me feel good and encouraged me to keep keeping on.” I couldn’t say much, trying to hold back tears causes one’s throat to choke up, but the smile I had for them probably said more.

    Reply
  4. Marty from Alabama - August 7, 2017 2:08 pm

    OK, Sean, it is a gloomy, weary, rainy day. Didn’t need this story. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a beautiful story, but sad. And you did a kind deed by helping him get through a tough situation as only you can. May I put my own ending, in my mind? I favor happy endings. Life doesn’t work like that, but dreams do.

    Reply
  5. Mary Lee - August 7, 2017 2:24 pm

    Love this story. I bet you will never forget this guy and always wonder what happened on Monday…Beautiful.

    Reply
  6. Kerri from Florida - August 7, 2017 2:41 pm

    You are solid, through and through. Thanks for pointing out the humanness that we should all strive to see…

    Reply
  7. Sam Hunneman - August 7, 2017 2:41 pm

    Second that.

    Reply
  8. Jack Quanstrum - August 7, 2017 2:55 pm

    Beautiful story. And I pray right now that God will bless him with good news. Sean that line, “I could not dress a salad at gunpoint “. Fantastic line, just love the whole story. Keep them coming!

    Reply
  9. Jeannie - August 7, 2017 2:57 pm

    I too, am praying that this man, and God knows who it is, gets a good report!

    Reply
  10. Pat Byers - August 7, 2017 3:13 pm

    my mornings begin with coffee. playing with the two black panthers (cats) we saved 2 years ago, and you.
    and the inevitable tears.
    this morning was no exception. the tears.
    nice to get that out of the way for the day.

    Reply
  11. Pat - August 7, 2017 3:27 pm

    I stopped mid article and took a knee (our family’s phrase for prayer) for this man and his family. Sean, should you hear from this man again, please share with us!

    Reply
  12. Catherine - August 7, 2017 3:36 pm

    Praying God’s blessings on this young man and his family. I hope his ex-wife saw him looking spiffy at her wedding.

    Reply
  13. kay in Texas - August 7, 2017 4:24 pm

    I’m joining the others. Prayers going up.

    Reply
  14. Carolyn - August 7, 2017 4:57 pm

    “…when you do it to the least of these…”

    Reply
  15. Bobbie - August 7, 2017 5:53 pm

    Please, Lord.

    Reply
  16. Danny C Hall - August 7, 2017 6:03 pm

    Good one

    Reply
  17. Sandi - August 7, 2017 6:19 pm

    Poignant stories such as this one make me think of people in my life who have battled that insidious disease called cancer. Let’s hope the man in your story wins his battle.
    One point I’d like to stress is this: When we talk to God, He always listens.

    Reply
  18. Peg - August 7, 2017 6:55 pm

    As I wipe the tears from my eyes, I am saying a prayer for the young man and his little boy. And there is one for you, too Sean. You always get to the heart of the matter. Bless you!

    Reply
  19. Amanda - August 7, 2017 9:57 pm

    Precious read .

    Reply
  20. AnneParrish - August 8, 2017 2:06 am

    You keep my tear ducts active, Sean. Always make me think how blessed I am . Thanks be to God for your talent. By the way, we women call those stalls you mentioned dressing rooms. LOL. I know lots of your readers will pray for the man in the story. Best wishes to him and you.

    Reply
  21. Michael Hawke - August 8, 2017 2:42 am

    You just called on the Lord and all your readers, most anyway, echoed that prayer. Thank you and May God bless you.

    Reply
  22. Karen Perry - August 8, 2017 2:46 am

    This is beautiful and compassionate. Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in our lives that we don’t pay attention to those around us. So glad you did.

    Reply
  23. Lori Klein - August 8, 2017 3:55 pm

    My sweet husband’s six month scan is tomorrow. It’s gut wrenching, nerve wracking stuff. Wicked in all its ways. But people have been so good and so kind. I hope and pray Monday went well for him.

    Reply
  24. Lucretia - August 18, 2017 1:55 pm

    I hope he got good news this past Monday. I too shall pray. Thank you, Sean.

    Reply

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