At a high school reunion about 25 years ago, I was approached by another man.
Years earlier, when his hair was darker and greasier, "Rick" was known as "Daddy Demon." He was probably one of just two Jewish juvenile delinquents in New Haven.
Rick smiled, said “Hi, howya been?” and he raised his right hand to shake mine.
I kept my right hand at my side.
I reminded Rick that in the fall of 1958, when we were both in the seventh grade, on the way home from school, he and a couple of other 12-year-old hoods ambushed me for no discernible reason. Rick poked holes in both of my bicycle tires and then he snuffed out a cigarette on my head.
A few months later, Rick’s posse held me down on the ground with my mouth forced open so they could spit into it. Later on, one of them stabbed me in the pool at our country club.
I did not shake Rick’s hand.
I did tell Rick to go fuck himself.
I still remembered a lot.
Fast-forward to a few days ago. Rick wanted to join an online group that I administer. My initial reaction was to ignore him -- a polite way of saying "go fuck yourself" again.
I thought about my decision. I've held a grudge against an evil, sadistic bully for 55 years, the vast majority of my life, and now he wanted -- or needed -- something from me.
Unlike that day in 1958, I now had power over him. I was in a position to show the mercy that he and his posse did not show.
I clearly did not forget what they did, and cannot forgive it -- but I can choose to ignore it.
Maybe Rick on Social Security is not the same person that the pre-teen Rick was.
I've done a few crappy things in my life ('tho I was never a bully) and I'd like my transgressions to be ignored.
So, I let Rick into the group.
If I meet him again, maybe I'll be willing to shake his hand. I probably won't tell him to go fuck himself. I'd probably like to have a conversation with him. I'd like to know what diabolical influences turned him into Daddy Demon, and how he outgrew the demon.
Maybe by being nice to a former nemesis, I outgrew a demon of my own.
I definitely feel better now.