Saturday, February 2, 2013

Broken Promises
 a Christmas story by R.M. Survine

      His name was Thomas Eugene Wilson Jr., but everyone called him TJ, and he was mad and sad. He didn’t know if he was going to fight or cry, everything was wrong and he was hurting deep inside; way down deep inside where a ten year old really hurts and nobody could make it stop hurting. He had done it again. Thomas Eugene Wilson Sr. had let him down once again and TJ was determined that this time he was not going to forgive him. No way! He had broken too many promises and TJ was tired of all the excuses. Mom said she understood, but TJ didn’t. His father was currently incarcerated and had promised he was going to be home for his birthday on December 23, two days before Christmas. TJ had been really excited, plus his dad was supposed to buy him his first basketball and show him how to shoot. But now he wasn’t coming home until three days after Christmas and that meant he was going to miss TJ’s birthday and Christmas . . . again! He had gotten in trouble again, and had broken his promise again. “I hate him,” TJ thought to himself, “and I don’t ever want to see him again. I don’t care if he ever comes home; he can rot in there if he wants.” TJ cried into his pillow until at last he drifted into a fitful night of tossing and turning.
      Thomas Wilson had been sentenced to five years for assault. He had not even fought the case; he knew he was guilty and deserved more than he got. He had faced ten years and was relieved when the D.A.# offered him a five years deal. He figured he would do three and get out, and it might have happened that way except the first two years he spent in and out of segregation,# mostly for fighting, and it soon became apparent that he would end up doing his entire sentence. Then his life changed. A little more than a year ago he was invited to attend a GraceLife Workshop, and there was just something about the way they explained Christianity that made sense to him. It took several more days of serious thinking things through but he finally surrendered his life to God. Then things really got hard. It seemed like even making the decision to do what was right was the hardest thing in the world. But eventually decisions did get easier and easier. Thomas, by nature, was not very vocal, but he was determined and he began to study the Bible with a voracious appetite. So much so, he became known as “the theologian.” Ask him about a topic and he would list and discuss the many verses related to that topic. Then Christmas came early for him when his case manager called him into his office to tell him he would be leaving two days before Christmas. That was awesome, because he would be home for TJ’s birthday.
      At first TJ was hesitant to believe him. Thomas knew he had broken more promises to his son than he could count, but after promising and promising that nothing would keep him away from coming home on his son’s birthday, he finally heard the hope in TJ’s voice when he asked, “Really dad, for sure?” and he confidently said to him, “Yes, for sure.” He would be coming home to celebrate TJ’s birthday and Christmas all at the same time. That was ten days ago; today was December 22 and Thomas was in segregation with six days to go. What was he going to tell TJ this time? He hung his head.
        Denise Hawthorne Wilson had met Thomas in her first year of college. He was smart, good looking and as a freshman had been the starting point guard on the school’s basketball team. But there was something about his dogged determination and how he had won her father over that really made her fall head over heels in love with him. After they had been dating about a year and things really began to get serious, her father called Thomas into the family room and told him he would never allow his daughter to marry a man who could not provide her with the security she deserved. Thomas stood up from the couch, looked him straight in the eye and said simply, “You got it,” and then walked out. After a month Denise began to wonder if her father had run Thomas off, but she was pleasantly surprised when he arrived at her house, walked right up to her father and informed him that he had applied for, and been accepted into, the aeronautical engineering program at a local college. He had spent the last month studying day and night in order to pass the entrance exam. He was three months behind in preparing and yet he had passed the
exam with a ninety-three. Denise was equally amazed when her father said to her later than night, “That’s a man!” Two years later they were married and a year later TJ was born.
      Thomas had started working for a branch of a local aircraft manufacturer and life was beautiful. Then came the accident. A drunk driver had run a red light and then tried to flee the scene. Denise and Thomas had received minor cuts and scrapes, but TJ had broken an arm. This scared Thomas more than Denise, and Thomas proceeded to beat the man within an inch of his life. He may have succeeded if the police had not arrived in time to prevent Thomas from committing murder. There was never a trial and within six months Thomas had begun serving a five-year sentence. And now a week before he was to come home he had been sent to segregation for tattoo paraphernalia, and all he would tell Denise was he had to do what he did and she needed to trust that he had no choice. She had cried on the phone and he told her that when she found out the story she would understand and forgive him. But what was she to tell TJ?
       Thomas did not know what to say; only one day maybe he would forgive him. She had heard TJ crying last night, but knew her words would not help. He was disappointed in his father and only his father could make it right. Denise was not looking forward to TJ’s birthday, and Christmas would be heartbreaking.
       Alicia Pierre was dying and there was no time for any setbacks. Joshua Pierre was scheduled to leave on December 20th, not a day too soon as she was failing fast and Josh needed to get out before she died because if not, his son Bobby would be taken by her side of the family and he knew he would never see his son again. They hated him from the start and even now were making plans to ship Bobby away from him. He had shared all of this with his cellie, who suggested they pray about it. He was unsure about this God stuff, but he was not turning down any help from anywhere at this time.
       Then everything seemed lost in an instant. The unit went on lockdown December 18th and he knew he was screwed and his son would be lost to him forever. It didn’t take them long to find the tattoo motor and needles. He had only agreed to hold the stuff because their cell had been shook down the week before and he was supposed to leave in a few days. As his heart sank, the most amazing thing happened. His cellie, who was himself supposed to leave on the 23rd, stepped up and said the stuff belonged to him. Josh wondered why he would do something dumb like that. He knew he wouldn’t have done that if it had been the other way around. And when they called his name on the morning of December 20th, Josh walked out not only happy but confused. There was something about the sacrifice his cellie had made that struck deep within his soul and he just could not get rid of it.
       What Thomas did not understand was why he felt compelled to open his mouth. In an instant he knew his sacrifice would hurt TJ and take a long time to heal a wound he had dug a long time ago, and continue to keep open by his long line of broken promises. Yet that was the key; he would have time, he hoped, but Josh would not.
      TJ woke early on Christmas morning. He knew his mom was awake; he could smell her coffee brewing and there was the faint sound of her moving about. He heard her footsteps outside his bedroom and quickly closed his eyes, pretending to be asleep as she opened the door. He tried to regulate his breathing as he felt her eyes upon him. She softly called his name, but he continued to keep his eyes closed, praying that she could not see his heart pounding under the sheets. It was racing a hundred miles per hour because though he loved his mother, he did not want to speak to her right now.
        Thankfully she closed the door, and after a moment he opened his eyes and once again fought back the tears. Last night he had promised himself two things. First, he would never shed another tear in life, and second, he would never forgive; well, that man for missing his birthday and Christmas after he had tricked him once again into believing him. He would never, ever, ever forgive him. As TJ swung his feet from the bed he heard the doorbell ring. Who could this be at 8:30 on Christmas morning? He heard the muffled sounds of voices then the door closed. Some man was in the house and he could tell it was not his . . . he just could not bring himself to say the “D” word. He slowly opened his door and walked quietly down the hallway as heard the man speaking to his mother.
       “Thomas really loves you and his son. His son was all he would talk about and what he was going to give him for his birthday and Christmas, and where they were going to go, and on and on.” TJ walked into the room to face this man who told such bold lies to his mother. His mom noticed him enter and said, “Good morning,” but he ignored her and faced the stranger with both arms rigidly held to his side and fist clenched, he said, “If that man loved me he would be here. I hate him and never want to see him again. I wish he was dead!” “TJ!” his mother shouted. “How can you say that?” TJ looked at her and responded:
“He said he was going to be here. He promised it again and he’s not, again. He is always breaking his promises and I don’t care any more.”
       The man sitting there turned to face TJ and for the first time TJ noticed a boy about his age sitting next to him. The man spoke up, “I’m sorry to hear you say that because it’s my fault he’s not here.” Both Denise and TJ looked quizzically at the man as he told them how Thomas had taken the rap for him. How his wife Alicia lost her fight with cancer, and if he had not walked in the house when he had, he paused and looked at his son before continuing, he would have lost his son forever. TJ looked at Bobby again, but with newfound compassion as he thought how this boy lost his mother right before Christmas, which had to be awful. Then Joshua continued with the story of how Thomas had taken the blame for something stupid he had done. “I asked him why he would do that, and he told me it was because he had the greatest son in the world and he didn’t want me not to know what it was like to have a son a father could be proud of.” He looked right at TJ as he continued. “He said you had such a big heart and he was so proud of you. You see I’ve been locked up since Bobby was six months, and he’ll be ten next month. I don’t really know my son and all Thomas ever talked about was TJ and playing basketball with him. He said he wanted me to not lose out on that chance to be a father.” Joshua placed his left arm around his son.
       TJ looked from father to son before asking: “He really said he was proud of me?” Joshua smiled, “All the time. To be truthful I kind of got tired of hearing him talk about you.” This brought a smile to TJ’s face. “Anyway, before I leave, this is for you TJ.” He picked up a box and handed it to him. “Though he didn’t ask me, I know he wanted you to have this for Christmas, and it’s the least I could do.” Bobby rose from his seat next to his father and walked up to TJ and said, “Merry Christmas, TJ. I hope you don’t stay mad at your daddy, cause he gave me my daddy.”
       A single tear began to fall down TJ’s cheek as he opened the box. Joshua stood preparing to leave. “Would you like a cup of coffee, Josh?” Denise asked. “No thank you,” Joshua answered, “I need to go. I just wanted to . . .” He was interrupted by a shout from TJ. “No way! Look mom, it’s a basketball!” Denise smiled at TJ. “Can I go out and shoot with him?” Bobby asked. Joshua sat back down and turned to Denise; “I guess I will be taking that cup of coffee after all.” TJ bounced the ball a couple of times then said, “There is only one thing that would make this a better day. I really want my daddy, but I guess I can understand. My daddy is awesome and I think I’m proud of him.” TJ moved to the door where upon opening it he gets the biggest surprise of his life, as standing there was his father, Thomas. TJ drops the ball and jumps into his father’s arms. “Merry Christmas son.” “Merry Christmas, daddy!” TJ says with tears falling and the biggest smile one can ever imagine on a ten year old’s face, who at this moment forgot about all the broken promises.

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