Choices

boys life

Boys’ Life magazine | November 1963

Tommy’s Dad always had to work on Saturdays, so Grandpa took him to his special Cub Scouting event. Last week, Grandpa and Tommy went to another Scouting Dad’s place to use power tools to make the Scout’s pinewood racing car. Today was the big day, race day!

Tommy Sheridan had no idea that Grandpa used to smoke. He quit decades ago, but it wasn’t soon enough. Grandpa went to the doctor when he couldn’t stop coughing. The X-rays and follow-up tests didn’t look good, and Grandpa was glad to be able to spend as much time with Tommy as possible…

…because time was running out.

Tommy was standing in line with his car in hand waiting to race. Grandpa was seated with the rest of the Dads and Grandpas, Tommy’s seat vacant next to him.

Except it wasn’t.

“An old Boys’ Life magazine. I knew they still made them, but…”

Grandpa looked at the date. “November 1963. But that’s impossible.”

Grandpa thumbed through the pages. “I remember this one. I used to have it.” His grin turned to a frown. “But that was over fifty years ago. How…?”

He looked up in time to see one of the Scout Dads at the top of the racing ramp take Tommy’s car, along with those of several other boys, and place them all side-by-side. The lever was lifted. The timer was started. They were off.

Neck and neck. All of the cars were nearly equal in their performance. Then one pulled ahead. It was Tommy’s. Yes. He made it. He won.

Grandpa jumped up out of his seat cheering for little Tommy, and then uncontrollable coughing racked his body. It was getting harder to breathe.

“No. Not now. Not yet.”

Grandpa collapsed in his chair as Tommy rushed over with his car, a big, broad grin adorning his face.

“I won, Grandpa. Did you see? I won.”

“I sure did, Tommy. Your car is terrific.” He gave his grandson a long hug.

“I gotta show this to my friends.”

Without waiting for a reply, Tommy rushed off with the speed of youth.

Grandpa picked up the old Boys’ Life magazine again, the one he had when he was a Cub Scout. A strange thought entered his mind. What if this was the same magazine?

“Impossible. It would have long since rotted away in some landfill.”

Grandpa turned the pages slowly, remembering when he was a Scout, remembering when he was young, and healthy, and the world lay open before him.

He felt dizzy, short of breath. “Not now, God. Please not now.”

He blinked. The light changed. The sounds changed. He heard an announcement and looked up.

“And the first place award for overall fastest pinewood racing car goes to Phillip Sheridan.”

“That’s me. That’s me.”

To overwhelming applause, the eight-year-old boy who would grow up to be Tommy’s Grandpa stood. He put down the Boys’ Life that had been on his lap and walked forward. He was so happy. He looked back and saw his own Dad and Grandpa smiling and clapping.

As Phillip stood holding his award and his car being cheered on by the other Scouts and Scout parents and grandparents, something whispered in his ear, “Second chances.”

When he was fifteen years old, even though he was really tempted, something whispered in his ear “No,” when he was offered his first cigarette.

When he was sixty-two years old, he jumped up yelling and shouting for his grandson Tommy whose car had just won the first place award, just like his did when he was that young.

A voice whispered in his ear one last time, “Good choices. Now he’ll have a Grandpa for a very long time to come.”

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