Point Clear, Alabama—Christmas here is merry and bright. I am in the lobby of the Grand Hotel, writing you. The place is decorated to the nines. Pinery everywhere. Red ribbons. Twinkly lights.
I have always wanted to stay at this elegant place, but I have never been able to get past security. I am here to speak for an Alfa Insurance conference to seventy insurance professionals.
This is the swankiest hotel I’ve ever been in. My room has a wine refrigerator, starched sheets, and complimentary cucumber mint shampoo. The bath towels and bathrobes are so thick you can hardly get your suitcase closed.
There is an older man sitting on a bench across from me. He is sipping coffee and reading the morning newspaper. I notice him. He is well dressed, and slender. He looks familiar.
Finally, the man lowers his paper and glares at me.
He says, “Do I know you from somewhere?”
“That’s funny,” I say. “I was wondering the same about you.”
The next thing I know, he’s sitting beside me. He says, “Wait a minute, are you Sean of the South?”
“That depends. Are you with the IRS?”
“Hey! You used to date my daughter a long time ago!”
Somebody please knock me unconscious with a cold chisel.
Suddenly, I remember him.
His daughter and I never actually “dated,” per se, but we went out once or twice. It was not a love connection. But what I remember most was a terse disagreement we had.
It’s a long story, but his daughter believed wholeheartedly that I ran over her mother’s marigolds with my truck.
I was offended. No matter how many times I swore that I didn’t destroy the aforementioned flowerbed, she refused to believe me. Then, she told me in no uncertain words that I was a “loser.” This hurt me. So, I said a few ugly things in return.
We parted ways. I never saw her again. And if I’m being completely honest, I was sore about it. But life goes on, people grow up and get mortgages and forget all about being falsely accused for alleged crimes against marigolds.
“Guess you heard about my daughter?” he says.
“No, how is she?” I say.
“Well, she was in bad shape two years ago,” he says. “Got really bad, doctors didn’t know if she was gonna make it, but she did. She beat it.”
He shows me his cellphone. On the phone are images of a woman in a hospital bed, surrounded by family.
“Know what?” the man says. “We actually read some of your stuff to her on the phone when she was in treatment.”
I feel like the world’s biggest boot heel.
He points to his phone screen. “This is her when her hair grew back.” He swipes his phone. “And this is us at my grandson’s soccer game.” He swipes again. “She’s doing great now. She’s healthier than all us put together.”
His eyes swell. And I don’t know what to say. So I don’t say anything.
“Hey,” the old man says. “I hope this isn’t weird, but would you mind if I took a selfie with you? She’ll never believe it.”
We pose for a picture. He hugs me, then we bid each other goodbye. And it doesn’t get any more humbling that this. In fact, I’m almost too embarrassed to write.
But I have a feeling an old acquaintance is going to be reading this. So, if that’s the case, let me say this very clearly:
Please forgive me. Forgive me for being young and foolish once. For being proud, adolescent, and embarrassingly human. I want to apologize. Life is too short not to say “I’m sorry.” And this year, I want to start saying it more often.
But most of all, please forgive me for accidentally running over your mother’s marigolds with my truck.
Because I ran those suckers flat.
May your days be merry this year.