“Regret is a tough but fair teacher in life. To live our lives without regret is to believe that we have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver in our lives.” *Unknown
As I reflect this morning, news reaches me of another death in the family. My oldest niece in Oklahoma lost her father-in-law last night — a painful long-running cancer death. Not much can be more challenging in life. I know her husband is hurting terribly. He and his dad were close. His dad gave him memories of fishing together, traveling together, of being a father and son. I’m glad for that. And he had a generous number of years stretching into his eighth decade.
His death has put me into a state of reflection.
I don’t have regrets in life, at least about what I have missed, places I haven’t traveled, or careers I didn’t pursue. My regrets are centered on missed opportunities and relationships with people. People I didn’t keep up with. My perceived failures in parenting my three children. Lost opportunities to connect with someone I recognized as a like-minded soul.
When my own father passed, the news wasn’t painful. He and I were strangers. I sometimes wonder if he even knew I was trailing after him in life. There are lots of reasons for that, but it took me years to realize that this lack of connection was not my fault. I have come to accept that he did the best he was equipped to do as such a young father. I don’t harbor anger. I do harbor regret for the relationship we never had.
I regret that he never felt I lived up to his expectations. He had a son, my older brother, carved in his image. That son looked just like him, idolized him, and they were of like mind. I looked nothing like my father, having taken after my mother’s side of the family. If my father said it was black, I said it was white. We were always direct opposites in our thinking. My father discouraged me from going to college, as I would be “getting above myself” in life. He had been so excited for my older brother to go to college. Not me. Why?
I went completely on my own despite his wishes. At times I worked three jobs plus a full-time schedule to give myself that gift. Not once did his over-the-road trucking job bring him into my college town, although I remember him often stopping by my…