Regrets, woulda, coulda shoulda. If only… I could fill a scroll. It’s hardly a novel thought. It’s been portrayed in books and movies – does “Back to the Future” ring a bell? I recently read For One More Day by Mitch Albom, a book that focuses on this theme.
The protagonist, Charley ‘Chick’ Benetto, is down on his luck and is ready to commit suicide. He drives back to his hometown where he intends to kill himself. After getting into a car crash SPOILER ALERT – AVOID THE PARENTHESESS (ultimately, the reader recognizes the rest of the story takes place while Charlie is in a coma), he walks to the water tower which is just behind the baseball fields, climbs the tower like he did as a kid and jumps off. He miraculously survives. Upon landing, he looks up and for a fleeting moment sees his mother who died 8 years before. He decides to walk to his childhood home and — lo and behold — his mother is still there and behaving seemingly as if nothing had ever occurred. Charley’s life had really spun out of control when his mother died, and reached rock bottom when he received a card from his daughter telling him about her wedding (he hadn’t been invited). Charley spends the day with his mother and the reader learns about his life, her life, and their life as a family. One line which is stated multiple times is uttered by Charley’s father – “Mamma’s boy or daddy’s boy, Chick? What’s it gonna be?” Charley choose his absentee father (Charlie’s parents divorced at a time and place when divorce was not as acceptable an occurrence as it is today.) It is not till his mother’s sudden passing that he realizes he made the wrong choice.
My mother was visiting with my family this past Father’s Day, and she read the book. We agreed that it was a quick simple read, likable, and thought provoking. Inevitably, the conversation came around to us both evaluating ourselves as parents and children. My father and I were like the Harry Chapin song – Cat’s in the Cradle. When I was younger, he was not around so much. As I got older, he wanted to be around more, but I was in the “hanging with your parents is not cool” phase. In the end, we had a good but not complete relationship. When I was a senior in high school, I had an English teacher who was very touchy feely (not in the headline-making way). He told us to go home, tell our parents we loved them, and note their reactions. What was this guy talking about? I was too embarrassed and couldn’t do it. However, the exercise made me think – why couldn’t I tell my mother I loved her? I did, so why not say it? As I grow older, I have come to appreciate and respect my mother more and more. Now of course, we still have our bumps, but I truly believe I am a good son, and she is a great mom.
I wonder about my own children: mamma’s boys or daddy’s boys. Can’t you be both? I want my boys to look up to, respect, love, admire, and feel the same for both my wife and I. Now, of course, they don’t get the same reaction, emotion, or attitude from both my wife and I. After all, we are individuals, and we behave differently. So, it is quite possible that the children could feel a greater connection to one of us as we are giving them more of what they need. Either way, it need not discount the relationship each child has with the other parent. So what will happen when my children get to that point and wonder? What will cross their minds and become a woulda coulda shouda? What will their ‘if only’ be? What will they wish for their one more day? So, yes, we all have regrets. The key is to try and overcome them just like Chick Benetto ultimately does.