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One of My Better Qualities

John W. Pinkerton


I had a friend who passed away in a hospital in Houston a few years ago.  He is probably the one friend that I’ve felt closer to than any other.

Of course Linda and I drove to Houston to visit with him.  He was very ill.  We chatted a lot and laughed a lot, and then he began his confession.

Now, I’m the last human being in the world that should be listening to a deathbed confession.   I see the humor in just about everything I encounter, and this often leads to “inappropriate” responses by me.  I must admit my reaction was a mixture of horror and quiet chuckling.

I don’t recall any specific sins related, but included more generalized human qualities:  I’ll paraphrase a portion: “I’ve been a selfish, self-centered son-of-a-bitch.”

Join the club.

I think my response was something like, “Yeah, but you haven’t been all that bad.”---that’s the best I could manage.  Hell, I suspect that his bad qualities, his human frailties, were the reasons I and others loved this fellow.

We’re all born selfish, self-centered little fellows.  We don’t have much of a choice; after all, we are all we know.  Life experiences usually beat this quality out of us, but some of us manage to avoid the worst of this.

To prove my point about myself, I’ll give you one more example of my self-centered beast.   When something bad happens to someone I know, my first response is not, “How terrible,” but instead, “How does this affect me?”  When someone changes jobs or loses their jobs for whatever reason, my first response is, “How does this affect me?”  When someone dies, my first response is, “How does this affect me?”

Sometimes these observed events don’t affect me; sometimes they do, but I get that question out of the way up front.

In my old age, the present, I more and more realize that I am pretty self-centered…heck, I’ve always suspected this, but as other qualities are stripped away by the passage of time, my self-centered quality remains strong, naked in the daylight.

I had a heart attack a couple of years ago, and I found my way to an emergency room  in a Houston hospital.  When I was first admitted to a hospital, I realized there was a good chance I was about to die and could not find one reason to be quiet about it.

A couple of my doctors, nice Pakistanis, showed up at my room chastising me for being loud and disturbing other patients.  My response was, “I don’t care.  This is all about me,” and it was…and it is.

I “survived” this ordeal.

My wife, Linda, who knows me better than anyone else---bless her heart, often says in response to something I’ve done or something I’ve said, “It’s all about you.”  I immediately confess.

I accept that.  It’s one of my better qualities.