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The Old Man

This will not be a typical blog post.  What I am doing instead is posting one of my short stories that I wrote several months ago.

                          The Old Man

A gruff old man sat in his chair, struggling to breathe and straining to utter a coherent sound.  He had lately become accustomed to looking at the clock on the wall, following the minute hand with his eyes.  Yet despite his old age, and withering body he still had the surprising wherewithal to be clear about expressing his innocence to a priest sitting across from him.  He knew that he had sins, (what human didn't?) But overall he thought of himself as a good and decent man.  Yet despite his self assurances he still wasn't peaceful.  He was hiding something, something that had plagued him for years.  So he was eager to set his soul at peace through going to confession one last time before he died.

      " In the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit..." began the priest. 
     " When was the last time that you went to confession?" 
      The old man replied, "It has been years. I haven't been the best Catholic." 
      The priest gently encouraged him to give a good confession.  After listing his sins and thinking that he had made a good confession the old man still kept rambling about something.  

     "You seem perplexed." The priest uttered. 
     "Like I said I didn't do anything wrong, but I can't accept your absolution unless I clear the air" 
     "Our Lord forgives all of our sins if we accept his mercy, but go on..." continued the priest. 
  After saying this the old man searched under his bed and found the wooden cigar box.  He lifted the the lid rummaged nervously through some papers until he found her picture.  

The priest subsequently asked, "Does your sin involve this woman?"
    "Yes. But I was faithful to my wife until she died.  I had three sons who all lead decent lives" answered the old man.

     "I am confused." responded the priest.  "When we began this confession you said that you were innocent and now you tell me that you had an affair? How can you be innocent and guilty at the same time?"

     "'s not that simple. There were reasons for why I did what I did."

      "There are always reasons. The human heart is a complicated thing.  The greatest saints struggled their entire lives to reign in their hearts." The priest answered.  "The most important thing is that you admit your wrong doing, accept Christ's forgiveness and move on."

    The old man began, "I was in the service and I was stationed in Japan.  I wasn't married yet even though I had promised a woman back home that I would marry her when I returned.  I fell in love with a Japanese peasant girl abroad.  At first I didn't notice anything spectacular about her; she looked like any other woman from that village.  But the more I spent time with her the more I grew fond of her.  I was attracted to her simplicity, and goodness.  She seemed like the perfect woman for me. I spent every free moment with her.  Our relationship was entirely pure. No sex. It was love not lust.
  "True love transcends the world.  Love is the most powerful force in the world. St Paul listed love as the greatest virtue" The priest chimed in.

     The old man continued after clearing his throat. "...There was one problem...her family.  They were very traditional in their outlooks on marriage.  They believed in arranged marriages. She was very young.  Knowing this we both decided that we would elope and leave together once my tour of duty was over. This seemed like the perfect solution.  But life got in the way and we didn't end up getting married. I returned back to the States and ended up marrying the woman that I had promised before."

    "What happened? What got in the way?" The priest asked.

     "Her family. Their influence in the village prevented me from ever seeing her.  We would try to communicate through letters and friends, or through meeting at different locations.  But each time we tried, something would get in the way.  I concluded that maybe the timing was not right. So one night with tears in my eyes I left her a final note. I gave it to one of her friends only half expecting the note to ever get to her.

     "What was in your note?" The priest asked.

    "Nothing special.  I was very idealistic at that age.  I just wrote that one day we would be together. I even left my address on the note in case she wanted to respond...But she didn't respond and the letters never came..."

     "5 years passed and I received a letter in the mail.  It was from her! I was excited, but torn.  I had already married and I had 2 sons.  So at first I let several months pass until I finally mustered the courage to write back."

       "Did she respond?" The priest pried.

       "She did and we wrote to each other for years until she died two years ago...But herein lied the problem.  I kept those notes a secret from my wife throughout our entire marriage.  I never really loved my wife completely.  I only loved her with a half heart.  I never left her or committed adultery, but I had given another woman my heart."

       "Did the woman ever marry?"

       "No she didn't."

      "I now understand your sin.  Your sin wasn't loving a woman; it was loving another woman while you were married.  You sinned.. that's true ...but there is hope in all of this mess."

      "No there isn't. I don't feel peace. I am haunted by what could have been. I let her go. I shouldn't have let her go.  I said no to love...No to love!  I let her family win.  My life has been a sham!  I left my true love in Japan, and I only loved my wife with a divided heart. Both women deserved better. I hurt both of them I'm a wretch."

      "Your life is not a sham.  You are a new creation in Christ." The priest persisted.

      As if he didn't derive a drop of comfort from the priest's words, he sobbed "Oh my God I'm so sorry sorry.  Please make it stop. I'm so sorry. " Then he started coughing violently.....

     The priest continued..."I know. He knows. I absolve you in the name of the Father the Son ......."

     After granting him absolution the priest made a sign of the cross on the old man's head, assured him again that God heard his confession, smiled and left the room.

     The old man was still very disturbed.  He tried looking at the clock to distract his mind.  But nothing worked. He was numb.  He wanted to apologize to his long dead wife, to his sons, and to his one true love  but he couldn't. God's grace would have to suffice. He had always read that, now he prayed for it to be true.  He placed the box back underneath the bed, and vowed never to look at it again.



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