Thursday, June 2, 2011

Regrets and Bad Memories

I'm having flashbacks to a bad time, in a typically neurotic way.

A man who doesn't have a lot of regrets by the time he's pushing sixty, hasn't lived very hard. By that dubious standard I must have lived as hard as any stoner, because I've got a lot of them. Most are mere embarrassments – Okay, I was a commie for about 45 minutes of my teens, which is how long it took to recognize what a mistake it is to rely on the simple nostrums and soundbite philosophies of self-serving bastards. It's still an embarrassment and a regret, but I comfort myself that I was just a kid. It was a learning experience.

Other regrets...I can't let myself off the hook. And the biggest is that I had one child and I was mostly a terrible father to her. It wasn't lack of affection, because I'd have jumped into a fire for her. It was lack of time and energy – and a very poor choice of priorities. When you're Mr. Suburban Man, climbing that ol' corporate ladder, it's easy to convince yourself that it's your responsibility to keep doing that. Even when you see other, more important things sliding. And whatever their complaints, the family you're neglecting expects you to keep doing it too. They're not gonna give up the big house, the shiny car, the wardrobes, that massively expensive kitchen, you've got to keep your whole head to the grindstone if you don't want to listen to money complaints. And you'll hear them anyway, so it's very easy to ignore that inner voice that says you're making a horrible mistake. After a few years or decades, if you're not putting in 10-12 hours on the job plus commute, you really don't know what to do with yourself. When you're home you're thinking about work, or just too worn out to think about anything. You barely know your wife, you don't know your kid. You're a bad husband and a terrible father. Never mind that you had enablers, it was your responsibility to get it right and you didn't. And you get to carry that for the rest of your life.

My daughter, a forgiving soul, still likes me. It wasn't always so, and I didn't blame her. I'm just happy for what I've got.

Anyway, that's all over and all I've got to show for it is a grown daughter who somehow turned out all right in spite of me, and a lot of regrets. I'm sort of semi-retired now – completely retired from my Suburban Man phase – and my immediate family consists of two needy dogs.

Whom I have been neglecting lately. And it's bringing me some nasty flashbacks.

Okay, it's not really the same thing at all. First, since my round-trip commute is a big two miles and I'm not working eight hours in a day, they see more of me than my daughter ever did. And they really aren't guilting me too badly over the Gitmo thing, now that they're used to it. In my limited experience, dogs tend to like whatever it is they're used to as long as it isn't too actively unpleasant, and they're used to Gitmo now.

But still – flashbacks. My big activity of a typical day used to involve long walkies with the boys. Now they get a belly-rub and a treat, and into Gitmo till I get home. I'm sure I'm taking this too seriously – in fact I'm sure I'm being completely silly. But it's bringing back bad memories.


Craig Cavanaugh said...

My biggest regret is a beautiful redhead who I stupidly blew off back in high school because of my "friends". My next regret is not living on a boat as I've always wanted to. Which makes the ultimate regret not living with a beautiful redhead on a boat I guess! Now I got a bottle blonde and a rent house. Who says youngsters don't know anything?!

Anonymous said...

I hear that. I was lucky enough (not smart because I've pretty dumb) to NOT want to work harder and longer hours at the expense of my family. The biggest regret I often hear is "I wish I spent more time with my kids when they were young". Mine are still pretty young (12 and 8) and being around to watch them grow up will probably be one of my more intelligent choices.

Don't be too hard on yourself - we all have regrets.

MamaLiberty said...

Ah, another member of the "Old too soon, wise too late club."

But good judgment comes from surviving a lot of bad judgment. You survived, and so did your daughter. That's very good, and something a lot of people can't say after making those choices.

I wish I'd left the rat race long, LONG before I did. But I'm glad I survived to get out at all. I very nearly didn't.

Anonymous said...

Good judgment comes from experience.
Most experience comes from bad judgment.


M J said...

Joel you may want to take a look at this.