Dr Wendy Lewis held her coffee mug tightly with both hands as her mind continued to replay the events of the late afternoon. She hadn’t taken a sip for about 10 minutes and the contents of her cup was now cold but she held on tightly and now started to shake her head again. “Why would you just blurt out something that is private and obviously hurtful and expose someone like that? Why?” No one answered. Wendy was alone and she wished Richard were there now as he had been a few hours earlier, so she could shake him, heck, the way she felt now she could slap him. She could picture him rubbing his cheek, glowing red, and probably not even be sure why she did it anyway. Something needed to be done. It’s just that she wasn’t even sure some professional psychology chat was going to even touch sides right now anyway. Wendy reached for her phone, and without really thinking through what she was going to say, she dialed Richard’s number.
“Hello Dr Lewis.” An awkwardly long pause. “I didn’t expect to hear from you again.” She could hear him swallow nervously.
“Richard, I’ve been thinking that we need to talk, but I need to be Wendy right now, not Dr Lewis, is that ok?” She felt like Richard’s mother suddenly, although there was 10 years difference in their ages and Richard was older. Next to each other, the difference seemed more like 20. He would never call her ‘Wendy’ as much has she insisted. He said it was a respect thing and she never brought it up again. “Do you mean like a private, personal conversation?” Wendy could hear the suspicion in his voice, and could picture one of his eyebrows being raised and his forehead all crinkled.
“Sure. This is really important, and I want to talk to you without the office and your chair and the certificates on the wall and my files.” This was going to be interesting. She was convinced something weird was going to happen.
“Go ahead, I’m listening.”
“Richard, you know I’m a Christian, right?”
“Yeah, each to his own, Dr Lewis.”
“You can call me Wend…Yes Richard, I guess so. You see, I’ve really been struggling with how I was going to deal with what you did, and I realised that I’m going to frustrate us both by trying to talk through what you did with your infamous Christmas dinner. I’m wanting to appeal to a different side of you, Richard. I’m hoping that if you’d let me speak for a few minutes, I’d share something that’s on my heart and hopefully not tell you what to do , but let you figure this out for yourself. Do you get what I’m saying?”
The silence was longer than she had hoped. She would have wondered if he was even still on the line but she could hear a dog barking on the other end of the line.
“I just need to let the dogs out in to the yard. Please hold on a minute, Dr Lewis. I’m happy to hear you out, I owe you that much.”
Richard never spoke about his dogs. Strange for a single person to not include that detail in a session. Pets are usually such a vital part of a middle-aged bachelors life. She wondered how many other things he’s hidden from her. Despite almost 40 sessions together she realised she really didn’t know him at all. She couldn’t worry about that now. She had to get this off her chest.
“Hello? You still there Dr Lewis?”
“Yes, I’m here. I didn’t know you had dogs, Richard.”
“They are my sisters’. She is away for the holidays so I’m baby sitting, I suppose. Noisy bunch. I’ll be glad when they’re gone. Will have to steam clean my carpets too.”
She could hear he was really frustrated. She suddenly felt bad, but couldn’t worry about that now. “Richard, I just wanted to say something I couldn’t get to talk about earlier because it wasn’t quite right to do so. You spoke about people being fake, and hiding who they really are and how they a have problems or history or whatever you called it and you thought it a good idea to expose people’s lives to each other.” She started to get angry all over again. Wendy swallowed hard and continued. “I agree with the one comment you made about Christmas; yes I think it has become really fake too, but that isn’t what it’s supposed to be about. You see, the whole Christmas thing was all about the birth of Jesus and how that is God’s greatest gift to the world.” She waited to hear how he’d take the new twist in the direction of her conversation.
“Yes. I know that, Dr Lewis.”
“Good. I’m glad. Ok. Now what I wanted to add was this: Christmas is all for you, Richard. It’s all for me, and it’s all for you. I’m not talking about it being ours to celebrate only for the sake of gifts and cards and trees, although those things are fun, trust me, a lady loves a good gift!” She was trying to lighten the mood, and was sure it wasn’t working.
“I bought you a gift Dr Lewis, but I was too embarrassed to give it to you earlier.” It took him 3 weeks to pick it out and Richard had left it in his car. There were chocolates in there among other things. They were probably melted and ruined.
“Thank you, Richard, that’s really sweet.” She thought she needed to bring this together and then just hope it hits home. “We have all done things that we regret, things that have hurt ourselves or others. There is dirty laundry in all of our lives, Richard. You see, God knows that and He still loves you and me. The thing is that all the junk in our lives brings guilt and makes us, um, unclean people. All our nonsense stains us, I suppose.” Wendy was wondering if this was even being heard. “You chose to humiliate people the way you did and it was hurtful, but even what you did and the guilt you feel can be removed. The consequences remain, sure. There are hurt people out there and it was your doing, but because of Christmas, the gift of Jesus meant that all that junk could be dealt with. It took His death sure, but His reason for being here was just that; to rescue us from our junk. You, me, everyone. Even the Pope!” Wendy chuckled out loud at that one. She wasn’t expecting the same on the other side.
“I’m sorry.” Richard’s voice sounded heavy and laboured. Wendy could hear him sniff and then he blew his nose. It was so loud it made her jump and she had to shift the phone away from her ear.
Wendy felt her voice become really gentle as if she needed to comfort him. “It’s ok, Richard. I just needed you to know the truth of what I believe and help to bring you some peace, and to help me feel less angry and frustrated. The nonsense in my life might not have been so bad, but I’m not better than you, or the next person. I wanted so badly to judge you. I don’t condone what you did one little bit, but I needed you to know that we all have stuff in our lives, but for many, it’s been forgiven and then people try to move on. It’s the only way.”
“Can I be forgiven?”
Wendy got off the end of the table that she was perched on and sat down on the soft sofa. It felt like it swallowed her in. She moved the hair out of her eyes and she felt herself smile.
“Of course you can, Richard, I’m so glad you asked…”