for release Friday October 28, 2005
by Melodie Davis
Living With Fewer Regrets
My husband and I spent about six days with my parents this summer, and were pleased that each of our daughters (two away from home and on their own, and one still in college) could join us for part of that time. The oldest one had to fly back East a day early to attend a wedding of dear friends, so my husband and I said we’d take her early in the morning to catch a bus/limo service from a nearby town to go to the Chicago airport.
This daughter has always been very sentimental, but I didn’t realize quite how sentimental until we’d hurriedly made her say her goodbyes to Mom (my dad was still in bed) and rushed off to meet the bus. We had allowed an extra 25 minutes or so, but we didn’t know exactly where we were going, and we didn’t want her to miss her bus to Chicago.
We had already traveled for about seven minutes away from their apartment when I realized Michelle was upset. “I didn’t even get to say goodbye to Grandpa,” she whimpered when I asked her what was wrong.
Both Stuart and I were immediately heartsick. Somehow I’d assumed she’d said her goodbyes the night before. Stuart asked her if she wanted to go back. We quickly weighed how much extra time we’d allowed ourselves. If we turned around right away, there was a good chance we could still make the bus depot in good time.
To his credit, Stuart quickly turned around and took Michelle back to say more adequate goodbyes to her Grandpa, who is 88.
Well, the bus depot was one of those out of the way places that took at least two stops to ask directions (even with computer directions). When we called the attendant at the bus depot, she was not very knowledgeable. She confessed she didn’t know the city of Mishawaka very well. While I fumed about that, when we saw her we understood why: she was little more than freshly out of high school herself.
We got to the depot, went inside, and the bus arrived. It left again three minutes later. We were within four minutes or so of missing it.
But I’m so glad we took that chance. We would have been taking an even bigger chance of living with regrets forever if we had not let Michelle say goodbye and if something had then happened to her grandpa.
I was reminded of this when I read a letter to Dear Abby, from an adult daughter expressing her anger at her father who had hidden a terminal illness from his children. After learning the diagnosis, her parents had responded by trying to live their last year or two together to the fullest: traveling, going to parties, being with friends. Their children hardly heard from them.
But eventually of course the children found about the illness and instead of rallying around their parents, were peevish that they had been denied knowing the news earlier. They weren’t inclined to visit since apparently the parents didn’t think enough of them to let them know earlier. Abby wisely told this daughter that everyone responds to this kind of diagnosis differently. Some want to keep it secret, some want to involve everyone in updates and decisions regarding care, and that she had better just appreciate what time she had left now or she would have even more regrets in the future.
One minister told of her regret of turning down a friend’s invitation to join her family taking a late-summer sailing trip off the coast of Maine. “I had committed to being a college dormitory proctor, and the trip overlapped with the first day of orientation. My friend and her family took a spectacular trip. I sat through a few hours of distinctly unmemorable meetings with the other dorm proctors, and probably attended a cookout on the dining hall lawn from which I could undoubtedly have been excused.
Later that fall, her father had a heart attack on the squash court. They sold their schooner and that was it—their childhood family sailing days were over. I missed it. I don’t regret being true to my commitments, but this was a missed lesson about scale-of-importance.” (from sermon by Kim K. Crawford Harvie, Arlington Street Church, Boston, Mass.)
All of us live with certain regrets, but starting today, you can make sure there are fewer regrets in your future. Are there relationships that have been strained, or even estranged? Are there family members you seldom talk to—not because of conflict, but the simple busyness of your life?
Is there someone you should call, write to, or e-mail today? Don’t put it off.
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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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