My Dad was a great man. He was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known, he rarely raised his voice, if ever. He was a teacher. He taught my brothers and me how to fix things, how to settle things (fights), how to do math (I hated that one…he was an engineer and I was a creative type, so his explanations never made sense to me and I almost always ended up in tears of frustration…but still, he tried). He taught me all the Dad-things: how to hammer a nail, how to ride a bike, how to play the piano, how to stand up for myself, and too many to name.
I don’t have many regrets in life. I look at life as one big learning experience. Are there things I would take back? Sure. But at the end of the day, my mistakes, my faults, my triumphs are what make me the person I am today, good and bad.
But now that I’m an adult reaching middle age, there is one thing I do regret: I wish I would have asked him more questions.
Not about HOW to do things, or just the FACTS about my Dad’s life, but I wish I would have asked him what it was like to BE him. I wish I would have asked him how he FELT about things.
Like when he was drafted into the Navy in 1956, six months after marrying my mom. He was a Seabee in the Navy. I remember him talking about the bug they caught that had pincers so big it could break a pencil, or the time he almost touched a lion fish not knowing how poisonous they are. But I never asked him how it felt to be so far from home and newly married. I never asked him what he did while he was stationed there. Or the people he met and called “friend.”
He worked for almost 35 years as an engineer and worked on top secret projects for most of that time. I never asked him what it must have been like to come home and not be able to vent about the annoying events of your day with your spouse or have a “bring your kids to work day.” It must have been lonely.
I heard stories about his childhood, but I wish I would have written some of them down (it’s what writers do).
And when he got older and got Alzheimer’s and I became an adult, at times I was too busy to take the time to just sit with him and listen. He didn’t talk much, especially towards the end, but he did still remember stories from his youth, even if he couldn’t remember my name.
So, don’t forget to spend the time, to ask the questions that you might not think are important. Because, one day, they will be.
At least I have all of eternity to ask anything I want to one day.
Are there things you regret not asking your loved ones?