Regrets, I have so few
My mother was a busy, determined, no-nonsense woman who understood the value of multitasking.
When it was time for her to explain sex, she did it while I was trapped in the car . . . on the way to church.
It was a brilliant maneuver. She could look straight ahead, I could look straight ahead, and it was over in 12 miles.
Granted, one congregation member, glancing at my ashen face, asked if I was getting the flu, but at least I had that hour to pray for the salvation of a species which thought THAT was better than watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show on a Saturday night.
Car talks are still valuable. My daughter, Molly, and I have many meaningful discussions riding along in my Ford Flex. Recently I talked with her about my regrets. I don’t have many, at least I don’t have many small regrets.
I certainly understand the philosophy behind regrets and why some people find them useful. Right about now Tom Brady, for example, is likely rueing the day he picked up a football instead of becoming a press secretary, or perhaps not. But the past is the one part of my life I try not to pick apart.
When I was 19, my journalism professor, Dr. Schram asked to speak with me in the hall after class. He’d attended Northwestern University and knew some people. He thought he could get me a scholarship to the respected journalism program.
“Thank you, so much,” I told him, with the bravado possible only in 19-year-olds and presidential hopefuls. “But my boyfriend is here in East Lansing.”
My boyfriend became my husband, my husband became my daughter’s father and we built the beautiful, flawed life we have today. No regrets.
I’m embarrassed about the perm I had from 1986 until 1990, but I don’t regret it, it simply makes me appreciate the Brazilian blowouts I get today; though the makers of that product should probably regret the name.
The only true, big regrets I have are the five individuals I’ve harmed or had a part in harming in my life. I know there are exactly five because I mentally pre-write my blogs while sitting in the bathtub and for some self-flagellating reason decided to tally them the other day.
It’s not something I would advise.
My big, small regret
If I was forced to choose a small regret, however, there would be this: the great Arizona highway incident of 2005.
We’ve had fabulous vacations in our marriage, but we’ve also experienced what must be more than the average number of terrible trips, mostly because a loved one became critically ill and we were forced to come home early or manage medical care from afar. This happened at least four times in the span of seven years; our relaxing on a beach seemed intrinsically tied to someone we cared about being loaded into an ambulance. Making vacation plans became traumatic and relatives begged us not to go anywhere if they felt the stirrings of a heavy cold.
Our absolute worst vacation was spring break of our daughter’s sixth grade year. Jim’s parents spent each winter in Arizona and asked us to visit; apparently not understanding our jinx. Two days before leaving, Jim threw out his back, necessitating daily trips to a chiropractor once we landed and red-lining all the horseback riding, tennis and hikes on our agenda. I injured my hand on a big water slide at our resort. Molly lost her glasses on the lazy river, which judging from the scratches across each lens when we finally retrieved them, wasn’t so lazy at all.
Jim and I fought daily over these seemingly minor incidents and our fights led me to stomp away sobbing and Jim to wince and clutch his lower back.
Then we hit the highway.
Jim’s father, Fred, was an adventure seeker. A veteran, former pilot and police officer he was also an avid traveler and he loved showcasing the beauty of places he and his wife, Doris, discovered.
He wanted to show us the cliff dwellings at Tonto National Forest, so we piled into his van, with at least two of us -- Molly because she was young and me because I was apparently very stupid -- not realizing just how HIGH cliff dwellings are located.
The trip up was long and winding and grueling. We were all happy when Fred said we could go back the shorter way.
Once we were on the road, however, he turned around and said: “I should have told you. It’s shorter but it’s a bit steeper.”
It was more than a bit steeper. It was sphincter-clenching, sweat-inducing, terrifyingly steep. It was two lane, no guardrail, gravel edged, make one false move and plummet-to-your painful-death-on-jagged-rocks steep.
The vista was potentially also the most beautiful thing we have ever seen. Fred pointed it out, repeatedly, gazing into the distance, showing us the sun and the shadows on the ochre mountains.
What we knew we should do, during that terrifying ride, was focus our attention outside ourselves and the death van and appreciate the majestic “wish you were here” views.
What we did, instead, was scream.
“DAD Would you please watch the road?” Jim, shouted.
“PLEASE?” I echoed.
Molly simply gave a little yelp and flung herself face first onto the back seat of the van.
Fred laughed, but seemed puzzled. I worry he thought we would have felt more comfortable with a younger driver, he was in his 70s at the time. I worry we hurt his feelings and made him begin to question whether with the passage of time he was not the same man in the eyes of those he loved.
So, that’s my big, small regret. I wish I would have thought to say this:
“It’s not you. It’s not your age. We know you have been a brave man and you are very capable. Our reaction is based on the fact that we are damaged physically at this moment and because our physical bodies hurt we are emotional and are over-reacting . . . though frankly it wouldn’t be a bad idea for ANYONE to keep a bit more of an eye glued to the road ahead in these conditions. Still, we want you to know we trust you . . . and those cliff dwellings were just marvelous.”
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