~~A POOR MAN
Hello! My name is Tom. I’m an old man now living a
quiet and peaceful life here in my hometown. No longer
do I live in the past or worry about tomorrow. One day at
a time has become a regular phrase these days and I plan
on keeping it that way.
I belong to a big family and have many loved ones and friends. But not so long ago, as I was growing up as a boy and living my life as a young man did I ever imagine that such a life full of family and friends could ever exist except for in my early boyhood years.
The year is 1930. In November, I was born and became the son of Margaret and Louis Jeffrey. My mother, Margaret, was a hardworking lady. She worked as a nurse in an old downtown hospital. People treated her with respect because she always looked out for the needs of others.
Every night she would read me a story from the Bible. Mom would teach me the importance of love and always remind me that God is always there when I needed him.
My father, Louis, was a fireman. He loved his job. Dad got excited when the fire bell rang. He used to say, “Margaret, Tom. I’m going to save another life today. Pray that I’ll be okay. Wish me luck.” After that, with a hug and a kiss, he would leave with his head held high knowing he would make a difference in somebody’s life. And he did. Everyday my dad risked his own life to save someone else. People admired him for that.
As for me, these first four to five years would be a key point of what would take place later on in my life.
Just before my fifth birthday my father had another fire call. All was good as he was leaving, but when he didn’t come home, we feared the worst. A soft knock came to the door that night. I will never forget that knock. It sounded like a knock of death. Mom and I went to the door. We held hands as tears ran down our faces. Then Mom opened the door.
A man about six foot two stood tall before us. Ashes and soot covered him from head to toe. His name was Bert. He used to be my father’s partner in firefighting. We know he barely made it out alive from the burn marks that his face had had. As Bert lifted his head to speak ashes fell to the ground. Then he spoke the words we dreaded the most.
“Margaret, Tom. Louis died as he was saving a little girl. A pillar of wood landed on him crushing his legs. I tried to save him, but the pillar was too heavy. Next thing I know we were both on fire. I had to go or I would have died with him. I’m so sorry…I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do?”
Mom, a little shaken of what she had just learned about her husband said this to Bert, “You are a brave man coming here to tell me and my son Tom about the death of my husband. Thank you! Please come inside so you can clean yourself and then I can tend to your wounds.”
I didn’t really understand at the time why my mom was so nice to that man. All I felt like doing was going into my room and cry. And that is just what I did.
We had a funeral for my dad. I remember it well. On the day I turned five was when my father was buried. I had never seen so many people. Everybody in that town paid their respects to my father. Hundreds of them! But never again would I see a funeral that big.
At the age of nine, my mother got called in to serve for the war (World War 2). I begged her not to go, in fear that I might not see her again.
Then she lowered herself so that her eyes would meet mine. With one hand on my cheek she said, “Son, always remember me and all the good times we had. Be strong and take heart for whatever happens something good will come along someday and sweep you off your feet.”
My mom always had great faith and knew that everything happens for a reason. Often times I would see her reading her bible and praying. What I loved the most was when we prayed together. And looking back I can see what good came from it.
That was the last time I saw my mother. I can still feel her hand on my cheek and see those soft blue eyes looking into mine.
It was 1941 when I heard that my mom had passed away. I received a telegram in the mail saying that the building she was staying in got blown up by the enemy. After reading that, I went to my room and wept for hours. A funeral was held for her a few days later. Only the women and children who knew my mom were present.
Life became different for me after that day. My mother and father were no longer around to look after me and I was an only child. Bert had moved on in his life. The only place for me was to stay at an orphanage. And they were strict in that orphanage! I did my best to obey and be good, as my parents taught me. The kids who stayed in the orphanage didn’t know why I was like that, so they started to tease me and pick on me. I thought to myself, “One of these days these punks are goanna learn a thing or two”. And they did.
One day I was walking back from school. I looked back behind me and there they were. The three bullies who keep picking on me. There was the fat guy, the thin guy, and the bald guy.
They called the fat guy Chubs. Chubs grew up with the wealthy people. All he ever did was eat, sleep, and walk slow. And he hated whenever people called him Chubby.
The thin guy was a pitiful sight. His nickname was Skell, short for skeleton. If you took a quick look at him, you could count all his ribs. He ate everyday but made sure he exercised to work it off. I think he was too afraid he might wind up looking like Chubs.
The bald one was known as Cozie. Cause his hair stopped growing at the age of two. Nobody knows why, it just happened.
Here I am with three bullies. One pushes me, another calls me names, and the other makes funny faces at me. I said to myself, “This is it! These bullies are goanna pay”.
With all my might I threw a soccer punch at Chubb’s gut. He gasped for breath. It took a minute before his breathing was back to normal because no one had ever hit him that hard.
I grabbed the skinny one by the nose and pushed him down. He yelped as his behind came in contact with the ground. On his way down he landed on a rock. As a result he couldn’t sit down for a week and had bruises for a month.
Cozie was the worst. As I was beating the other two up, I picked up a stick from the ground and started beating him on the head a few times. He was wearing bandages all over his head the next day.
When they had enough, they went home crying to their mothers. A pitiful sight it was, but they deserved it.
That’s where I got my nickname from. - Sticky - This name was given to me because I stuck like glue to these bullies until each one was struck down.
I took great pride in that name. Each time someone called me it I’d smile and say to myself, “Boy, does that bring back some memories”.
Growing up as a child into a teenager taught me about the challenges of life. These challenges at the time were: 1) Never Turn The Other Cheek, 2) Believe It, Do It, 3) Always Look Tough and 4) Never Be Shy.
Soon, after I learned what these challenges were, I took some lessons in Martial Arts to learn how to defend myself. Fighting became my passion through the teenage years. Many victories were won followed by celebrations that lasted through the night.
But there was this one fight I would never forget. My apponet’s name was Javen and he always had this cold sinister look in his eye. But I didn’t fear him. I went in the ring feeling as confident as ever. I had every right to be, since I was twenty years old, young and strong. So, we were swinging at each other, blocking and kicking, the whole nine yards! But when my chance came, I leaped at it with a kick to the chest that should have sent that boy flying back to where he came from. Unfortunately, he caught my leg, twisted it, broke it, and then pushed me down to the ground. Any wise fool would have stayed put flat on the mat, but not I! Up I rose for another round. All senses were gone, but something inside me was still alive. Revenge!! As I was standing on one leg, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him charging like a bull to finish me off. Up in the air I went! My leg swung around, made contact with the guys jaw, and sent him flying across the ring. I waited in anticipation to see if he would get back up. “Eight, nine, ten,” said the ref. And the fight was over. I was now “The Worlds Greatest Martial Arts Fighter” of that time.
But there was one problem, my leg. On my way to see the doctor I feared the worst; that I couldn’t walk again. Inside the doctor’s office I heard him say to me, “Tom, I won’t beat around the bush with you. Your leg has got to come off. There is nothing I can do for it. I’m sorry, but this is the only way”. So there you go; the story about my leg.
That was the end of Martial Arts for me. With only one leg, I don’t think I could dodge people the way I used to.
The art of cooking became an interest to me. With practice and dedication the knife soon became my best friend. But not too many people hired me in those days as a result of my missing leg. So I started my own business and delivered food. People loved my cooking and asked how I got the food to taste so good. I simply told them, “With a little study, dedication and practice, you can do anything”.
Soon after that, people came to me to learn how to cook. After the learning, we opened a restaurant called, “Specialty Delights”.
I was twenty-five when the restaurant opened. People from miles around came in to share with the delights. Even the mayor stopped by! Dozens of bands played, birthday parties were held, and we also celebrated Christmas there. For thirty years, I worked in that restaurant and had some great memories. Now, the restaurant still stands with new owners and a new name. But business there was nothing like it was before.
I’m fifty-five years old now, never married and on my own. With an early retirement package and a single bedroom apartment, I’m quite fine.
There are some days when I would think of my mom, the times we prayed together and when she said good-bye. I cried, sometimes for hours. One day, when the memories were too much for me to handle I prayed, “Dear God, wherever you are, if you can hear me, can you please help me?” Afterwards, feeling better, I headed off to bed and fell into a deep sleep.
When I awoke, I looked out the window to see a very beautiful sunrise. In a rush, I put on my clothes and went outside for a walk. On a rickety old bench, by a crisp blue ocean, I sat down. For at least an hour I watched the sun rise. Higher, higher…
“Hello,” came a nice voice from a lady who just sat down beside me.
“My name is Jennifer. How are you on this lovely morning?”
I was stunned! I didn’t know what to say. Perhaps if I got up and left…no, that wouldn’t be nice.
“Good,” I said. “I just watched the sun move from here to there in just one hour. Isn’t that amazing?”
“It sure is,” she replied. “But there is something even more amazing! The sun along with the flowers, the grass, all animals and birds, the whole world, the stars and all galaxies; everything that you see and hear has all been made by one creator.”
“Who is this creator?” I asked.
“His name is God,” she answered.
I froze! Many memories came rushing back to me. I could remember my mother’s exact words before she left,
“Son, always remember me and all the good times we had. Be strong and take heart for whatever happens something good will come along and sweep you off your feet.”
Then I remembered the night before. I asked God to help me. Could this same God be the God Jennifer was talking about? I had so many questions.
“Jennifer, does God answer prayer?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said with a smile.
“Okay Jennifer! Last night I prayed to God asking him for help. I needed help in everything, so I asked for just that. And here I am with you. Could you be that help?” I just had to know.
“Well, let me share with you how I feel about that. I lived in this town all my life. When I was little, around the age of four, my life was almost taken away by an enormous fire. A brave fireman saved me before…”
I interrupted before she continued, “You don’t need to go on any further maim. I know who you are now. You’re the little girl my father saved before he died. He was a fearless man, courageous! All he ever did was save lives.” I explained.
Little did I know that it was my life that was about to be saved. After a few words Jennifer invited me to come to church with her. Soon after, I started to study the bible. Every question I asked had an answer. In a short time I was baptized and became a Christian. My eyes were finally opened and I began to recognize what God did for me. As for Jennifer, well, we began dating. A year later we got married.
Now, we serve daily in God’s church as minister’s teaching God’s love to others.
Before, for all those years, I was poor in spirit. Today, I am rich in God’s love.
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