New Year, New Leg
Happy New Year, Reading Friends! Maybe you’re considering what you have to stand on in the year to come. What will make your life matter? What will give it meaning? How will you influence the next generation to live for Jesus instead of living for the world’s pleasures? What still remains in your life of tribulation and loss that offers hope and joy? Here’s a story of a man who had only one leg to stand on. —David Telbat [Note: We begin a new BookSweeps Giveaway TODAY! Be sure to read about it after the story.]
NEW YEAR, NEW LEG
by D.I. Telbat
Ninety-year-old Chris Mason sat in the nursing home commons room and stared out the window. It was New Year’s Eve, and exactly one year earlier, he’d sat there sipping eggnog, staring out that same window. The difference this year was that he knew very well that his family wasn’t coming to visit. A year earlier, he’d stared at the front parking lot, hoping they would come.
Chris turned his wheelchair away from the window. It was too depressing waiting for his kids or grandkids to come, knowing they had busy lives now. They didn’t care about the past or life lessons he might have to pass on. If he was honest, Chris didn’t blame them. His life in the retail business hadn’t been very interesting, including his early years as a fork lift operator on the docks.
An inch at a time, Chris used the hand rims to roll his wheelchair away from the windows toward the hallway. He could take all day to return to his room if he wanted to. He had no other plans. The orderlies nearby didn’t bother to push him back to his room, either. They knew he liked his independence and that he rarely participated in the scheduled activities in the home.
At the head of the hallway, Chris allowed his chair to drift to a stop against the wall. Wayne Johnson sat in front of him, thirty feet away. Chris had often witnessed the younger patient parked in the hallway, weeping as he was now. He could steer around Wayne to reach his own room, but he thought about returning to the empty scene outside the commons room window. There was nothing more depressing than seeing Wayne Johnson trembling through his sobs in his own wheelchair.
Wayne Johnson was only in his thirties. Chris had heard the orderlies speak of the young man who’d been abandoned to the nursing home after family and friends had gradually drifted away from the single amputee. After a car wreck had taken Wayne’s left leg above the knee, the insurance companies had raced to abandon him even faster than his own family had.
Chris started to turn his chair away from the hallway. No way was he spending New Year’s Eve listening to Wayne cry about his missing leg, a prosthetic he couldn’t afford, or his family’s disregard of his plight. Chris had his own mobility and family problems.
But that day, Wayne’s weeping sounded different. Chris paused in his retreat and actually shuffled his chair a little closer to Wayne. An orderly passed them with one of the other residents for a family visit, but Chris didn’t gaze after the woman with envy. If he wasn’t mistaken, Wayne wasn’t crying at all there that day . . . he was laughing!
Chris edged his chair closer and closer until his slippered feet bumped into the empty left foot pedal of Wayne’s chair. The young man lifted his head, his laughter checked. Tears streamed from Wayne’s red eyes to his unshaven cheeks.
“Sorry.” Wayne sighed and wiped his eyes. “Am I in your way?”
“I could go around you if I wanted to,” Chris said, then pointed at him with a gnarled finger. “You’ve been crying for weeks. What’s wrong with you now?”
“You won’t believe me.” Wayne chuckled and sniffed. He shifted in his seat. “You really want to know?”
“Well, yeah! I asked you, didn’t I?”
“Okay, okay, Grandpa. But it might not make much sense.”
“That’ll be nothing new,” said Chris. “I can’t make much sense of anything your generation says or does.”
“Look, I’m just laughing, okay? I realized something this morning. That’s all. I’m not crying anymore. I’m fine now.”
“Are you leaving?” Chris asked. “You heard from your family? They’re coming for you?”
“Me? No. I’m probably here to stay. It’s you and me for the New Year, buddy.”
“Then why are you laughing? Tell me! You’ve never laughed before.”
“I suppose you’re right. I’ll tell you, though, my eyes are wide open.”
“Well, out with it, Junior!” Chris was surprised at his demand to know Wayne’s source of laughter. It was more than curiosity, but a longing. “I ain’t getting any younger!”
“Okay, okay. But you’ve got to understand something about me first. I’ve lived a really spoiled life since childhood. We weren’t rich or anything, but I always got what I wanted.”
“I was an athlete in school. Lots of awards from sports. Plenty of girlfriends. Popular at parties. College was a blast. And I made some good investments after graduation. Life’s been good.”
“Then you lost your leg.”
“I’m not sure I really did.”
“You definitely did.” Christ nudged his chair against Wayne’s again. “See that empty pantleg? You lost your leg, Junior!”
“No, no. I know that.” He chuckled and patted his stump. “You have to understand. I’ve always wanted to be right with God, so I read the Bible once in a while and went to this big church in my neighborhood. It made me feel good, and on the outside, I looked good, too.”
“Yeah, but look at you now. You still have no leg.”
“You want to know why I’m happy right now? First, you have to know why I’ve been crying. I’ve been missing a lot more than my leg. Where are all the people who said they cared about me? They’re all gone now. Loneliness really stinks.”
“People are scoundrels, Junior. You can’t trust them.”
“Maybe, Pops. Even that church I went to wasn’t really teaching me about God or how to live through tough times like this. They taught me to feel good for a while, but I didn’t really get anything from it. What do I have from them now? Nothing. I don’t even have a leg to stand on. Get it?”
“No leg to stand on?” Chris grunted. “That’s your idea of humor?”
“No, listen, Gramps. I had to go through all that hard stuff. Maybe we all do. And then when we realize how useless some things are, we find the real point of life.”
“You’ve figured out the point of life?”
“I relied on popularity to make me happy. I had a good job and made lots of money so I could keep my youth alive a little longer. I went to a church that patted me on the back instead of teaching me about courage and faith and God’s goodness. Get it?”
“So, you’re disappointed in what you did? That’s not funny at all.”
“No, I’m saying I was supposed to be disappointed in what I did. Even my leg—I lost it and my whole life fell apart. Apparently, that was the only leg I was standing on. Like you said, I’ve been crying for weeks.”
“So, God gave you a bum deal. So what? We all go through that stuff.”
“No, God didn’t do it to me. My eyes were on the wrong things. I even found a church that taught me the wrong emphasis. I should’ve attended a church that taught the Bible better, important topics like I know the Bible teaches. Life here on earth isn’t about selfish pleasures. We’re supposed to look to the future and seek to please the God who made us and forgave us.”
“You’ve lost me.”
“Losing things in life has to happen before we realize what we’ve gained.” Wayne grinned. “See why I’m laughing now? I’ve lost a lot.”
“You realized you’ve wasted your life. So, now what have you gained?”
“This moment, man!”
Wayne threw up his arms. “I don’t need my other leg to realize life is about finding humility through Christ and faith in Him. I can get ready for eternity with no legs at all—even in a place like this nursing home.”
“Even if family doesn’t visit us?”
“You and me, partner, have no leg to stand on.” Wayne leaned forward. “But really, trusting the Lord for the future, that’s the only leg we need to stand on.”
Chris stared at the bright-eyed youth in front of him. The kid really was on to something. Life had to be about more than the depressing empty parking lot he often stared at from the window.
“My hips are no good,” Chris said, “but I have a leg to stand on?”
“You got it.” Wayne licked his lips. “You really get it, Pops!”
“Most of my teeth are gone, but I have a leg to stand on.”
Chris couldn’t help but feel a smile creep across his face.
“All we’ve got is this place for New Year’s, but I have a leg to stand on.” Wayne sat back in his chair and sighed. “Ah, man, I wasted a few weeks crying about what I’ve lost. So what if nobody loves us much? We’ve got our Creator who made us and saved us, old timer!”
“That’s a leg worth standing on.” Chris grinned. “I get it, Junior!”
*NOTE: We are taking part in another BookSweeps Giveaway and it starts TODAY! Click this link (late morning) to enter for a chance to win a bundle of 51 inspirational fiction & nonfiction books by multiple authors, including FURY in the STORM
by D.I. Telbat! This giveaway ends Jan 11.
*NOTE-2: We recently updated David Telbat’s short story collection, VISIONS of HOPE. (We decided to replace one of the 31 stories in the ebook with a different one so you may want to download an updated file from the vendor, if you've already bought it.) AND the paperback cover is about ready! The paperback version will go live this week; the above link will show links to both versions when it’s out.
COMING UP: Join us next time (Jan 16) for David’s new Author Reflection, “Giving & Getting.”
And on Jan 30, we’ll have David’s Novel News Update.
If you missed our last newsletter, you can read it here.