My wife and I took the wise old man out of Hillsboro Manor for a couple of hours to see the Christmas lights and to get a cheeseburger and fries from his favorite drive-in. He is not very demonstrative, as you know, but he showed his love for the sights of the season by a soft smile. Every now and then he said, “Wait a minute.” He meant for me to stop the car so he could look at the displays. His favorite was a live nativity at a local church with real animals. “That is a good donkey,” he said. “He is gentle as a cat. Reckon Mary rode a donkey? That is not in scripture. They might have had a wagon, you know. Pregnant girl ought not to ride a donkey the 50 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem.” I asked him if it was really that far. “They had to go around Samaria, you know.”
When we got to the drive-in, he said he wanted jalapenos on his cheeseburger, cheesy fries and a large chocolate malt. I ordered the same for myself, with just a slight guilt pang. My wife got a chicken sandwich, no fries, and water. Another pang. While we sat there in the lot enjoying our sandwiches, the wise old man said, “Dan, I am not getting any younger, but I still like to make resolutions. Do you make any?” I pondered the question and said, “Well, no, but I would like to hear yours.”
“I am resolved,” he said, “to live for Jesus. Now, what that means is a life of love and forgiveness. I have a lot to forgive, son, a lot.” I choked up a little, because that was the first time he had ever called me son. “I have to forgive, first of all, myself,” he went on. “I am the hardest person I know to forgive. But I have to truly forgive me before I am free to forgive Nona-Pearl.” That was the first I had heard of Nona-Pearl, but I did not want to appear nosy, so I said nothing. He paused a long time, taking the last bite of his burger and slurping his malt.
“Nona-Pearl nearly killed my spirit, son, he said sadly. She nearly did. By saying she loved when she did not love. By lying about the one thing no one should ever lie about. I loved her. I truly did. But, she did not love me back and it has taken me a lifetime to forgive her for not loving me. I finally did, by realizing what an unlovable person I was at that time. She was right not to love me just because I loved her. But I wish she could have…”
My wife said, “Did either of you ever marry?” He slurped again and again until the malt was singing the drugstore blues. “She did. And they got rich. Gambling joint in Jacksonville. Then two. Then four. Then more. All up and down the east coast. I saw her in Jupiter two years ago. Jupiter, Florida, not the planet. She did not recognize me. “Do you still love her,” my wife asked. “In a godly way, yes. As a human. As I was saying, I am resolved to live for Jesus, loving and forgiving everyone, even myself. I am getting there. Thank you both so much for the supper and the sightseeing tour. Now, Dan, your belly is too big. Get that under control.”
“But how, sir? I have tried all kinds of diets and exercise.”
“Little meat and nothing sweet. Uh, Christmas burgers and fries notwithstanding. And malts. Slurp.”