I admit I am not always the most sensitive person. Quite often if something inappropriate is said, I’m the source or at least a co-conspirator. I’ve been known to be an active participant in uncontrollable giggling fits at wakes.
My lack of sensitivity is sometimes reflected in the books I read. For many years, I read books that were usually horror stories (i.e. Stephen King), true crime tales (i.e. Ann Rule) or satirical essays (i.e. David Sedaris). Over the years though I’ve began to expand my reading interests. Now instead of reading books that scare the crap out of me or make me laugh hysterically, I’ve included books that enlighten me. They may encourage me to focus on a new topic, perhaps teach me something worthwhile or view something from a different angle I hadn’t before considered.
I also am a sucker for a bargain. My favorite spot at a bookstore (besides the coffee shop) is the discount aisle. I have come across some of the most interesting books that I ordinarily would not even look at if full price. In that aisle, what usually catches my interest first is a $5 price sticker. I’ll inspect the cover, flip through a few pages, read the description on the jacket. If it seems remotely interesting I’ll buy it. Worst case I’m out five bucks. Best case, I’ve discovered a new author to enjoy.
My latest five buck find was a book called For One More Day, by Mitch Albom (from the Tuesdays with Morrie fame). I have read a few things by him in the past but nothing recent. The question that caught my attention on the back cover was, “If you had the chance, just one chance, to go back and fix what you did wrong in life, would you take it?” I was hooked. I paid my five dollars and left the store with my purchase in a little plastic bag completely unaware of the impact 200 pages would have on me.
Without going into too much of the story, its main character is a former baseball player, Chick Benetto. His life has fallen apart. He’s hit rock bottom, his family no longer wants anything to do with him and he is not invited to his only daughter’s wedding. In his depression and despair he decides that life is no longer worth living and plans to kill himself. He miraculously survives his car crashing. He emerges from his car banged up but alive and not far as it turns out from the home where he grew up. He stumbles to the house and there finds his mother who has in fact been dead for years, very much alive.
What follows is an account of the gift Chick has received, an opportunity to fix a decision he regretted and is what partly led to his decision to commit suicide. Years earlier he lied to explain why he had to leave his mother’s birthday celebration early, which unbeknownst to him would be the last time he sees her alive. She collapses and dies that evening. From that day he has lived with the guilt of knowing he failed his mother and led to his rapid downward spiral.
In a dreamlike experience he gets the opportunity to spend one last afternoon with his mother. He gets the opportunity to make amends, apologize and learn some things about his mother and the rest of his family that he didn’t know before this evening. The experience allows him to change some things in his life, reestablish a relationship with his daughter and live out the rest of his days at peace with himself.
This story grabbed me from several different angles. When I look at events in my life I typically feel for the most part, given some of the dumb things I’ve done, the wrong choices and bad decisions I made, I likely still wouldn’t do things differently a second time around. I can’t help but think each decision, good or bad led to many things that happened from that moment on. The initial choice may have not been wise, but things that transpired later turned out fine. I would be concerned that changing that one moment in time would have a trickle down effect on anything that happened after. I wouldn’t want to chance that the good things in my life would be erased along with the dumb decisions.
But the real draw for me with this story was the mother aspect. Over the years as my mother was fighting cancer, I made some poor choices. Maybe I was in denial over the seriousness of the situation, maybe I was naive believing that she’d have her treatment and she’d be fine and maybe it was that I was young, with two small children and was completely overwhelmed with it all. Whatever the explanation, I made some poor choices. One at the beginning of her battle and one at the end. In my defense I think I did okay in the middle. I talked to her daily, spent as much time as possible with her and stepped up to help her with whatever she needed.
As much as I acknowledge that the decisions I made were not intentionally selfish, the bottom line is they were. I should have known better and I should have done better. It’s been 17 years. I haven’t spent my days beating myself up over the choices but they do still bother me and yes I would jump at the chance to do those two days over and make both of them right. Neither day would have changed what ultimately transpired but it still would have made a difference for us both. Those are two days I can never take back, those are two days, like Chick Benetto, I wish I could get a chance to make right.
Five dollars is a small price to pay for such a thought provoking message. What would you do if you were given one more day to repair a wrong?