Something to ponder – I wrote this about my life, yet feel it applies to all our lives. Regret is a heavy burden.
I should have been so happy. Understanding the people in my life was a reason to celebrate. Instead, my tears were feed by an incurable sadness. I had found my first regret, it wasn’t for myself, I was strong now, my vision was clear. I wept for others; I wept for words unspoken and lives of those I loved melting into obscurity. I cried because I would never know what may have been if I had found my voice sooner. Things unsaid, questions unanswered, opportunities missed.
I wanted them back. I wanted to sit Baba down, not as my grandfather, but as John. I would ask him to be kind to my father. I’d tell him how proud I was of my father, I’d make him understand. He should have been told – the measure of a man is not in the car he drove, or the committees he headed. Someone needed to point out that the worth of a man is quiet and strong, it’s defined by the impact he has on others. I wanted him to know my father was a good man. I could have made him see what his overbearing, condescending, never good enough approach had done to my father. I wanted to shake him, shout at him, tell him that despite everything he had done to squash my father; he had managed to rise above. My father had found his own way, he actually made a difference. There wasn’t a parade, a high school band, strong and quiet my father marched on.
Having straightened John out, I’d ask him about his life. I I knew he owned the land we lived on, that was abundantly clear. I knew his sister and mother lived in a nearby town as we visited them every month or so. I knew at least one of his brothers was killed in the war, and he had a terrible farm accident that nearly killed him. That was it. I wanted to ask him, to understand what made him tick. If I could understand his life, I could understand why nothing my father ever did was good enough. I know he had a kind heart, it simmered to the surface when you least expected it. I doubt he had any idea what he was doing to my dad. Suddenly I wanted to comprehend his life, but it was too late. So I cried.
I wanted my grandmother back. Not as Granny, but as kind, sweet, gentle Annie Gladys. I would put my arms around her, she needed to know that her life hadn’t been defined by John. Her life had mattered. She was an angel, a beacon of light, someone we could always count on. Not once did she raise her voice, solid as granite, she was our foundation. I wanted to tell her everything she had done for us. I wanted her to know that someone recognized her sacrifice, she may have vowed in marriage to love , honor and above all obey. Someone needed to tell her, she hadn’t been lost in that promise. She kept her vows, she was a good wife, and managed, despite it all to touch us with her beautiful spirit.
I couldn’t breathe, at first I thought it was panic, and soon recognized it as incurable despair. I never told her I loved her. Not once. I wanted her back. Had she died thinking we took her for granted. Had I found my voice in time, I might have been able to touch her heart. She needed to know she wasn’t alone, I wanted to be her secret allies, and she had to know someone noticed. I wondered if anyone had ever told her they loved her. I wanted to know if she loved John. I wanted to ask her about her life, her dreams, her childhood.. Then I cried.
My mother’s father was my granddaddy. I wanted him back . Not as Granddaddy, as Cecil. Cec was quiet, I always sensed he had stories to tell. I thought he was cool. We used to sit together in silence at his kitchen table, smoking Black Cat No. 7 cigarettes. He had the thickest, curliest hair. He was so unlike Baba, he was a gypsy, a drifter; he moved his family from place to place working in the mines. He panned for gold; he believed in and searched for the Sasquatch. I had so many questions, I wanted to know everything. I wanted to tell him everything was OK. I hoped his life had made him happy, I wanted him to find a voice. I would listen. I wanted to see a twinkle in his eye. Then I cried.
I wanted my Nana. She was a Margaret, like my mother, everyone called her Madge. I had the most questions for her. My God, she had lived in San Francisco in the 20’s, working as an illustrator for catalogues, then fashion magazines. What was is like. I needed to know. How did she end up with Cec, moving from job to job? I needed to tell her she was responsible for an amazing child. My mother came from this crazy place, I wanted to thank her. In my heart, I’m sure she was brilliant, and then stifled by responsibility and circumstance. Like my mother she was exceptional, what might she have been if left to her own devices. I loved her for her off beat take on life. I loved that even though her garden had arguably the worst soil imaginable, being at least half sand, she always thought she could grow tomatoes. I wanted to tell her that even though her garden may have been hopeless, her greatest accomplishment was in helping my mother grow into an interesting person. I needed to thank her for fostering my mother’s brilliance, for allowing her to be different. I wanted to ask, had she known how remarkable my mother was, or did she take it for granted, as she was remarkable as well. Then I cried.
My regret began to fade. My tears became fence posts. I had spent my whole life, building this fence. It enclosed a meadow. A magical place beyond description. It was here I kept the memories of these remarkable people. I couldn’t have them back, but I could visit them any time I liked.