Wednesday, June 29, 2011

If Only

I met her for the first time shortly after I got married. She was old - late eighties or early nineties - and she suffered from senility. But she had a wonderful sense of humor and she was smart, and I liked her a lot.

She'd ask me my name every time I saw her, as though we were being introduced for the first time. And she'd make the same comment and give me the same compliment every time. She seemed so happy when I had my first child. She asked me his name and how much he weighed. She held him and rocked him and sang to him. And then she asked me his name again, and how much he weighed. And then again a few minutes later.

She couldn't remember what happened yesterday. But she remembered what happened seventy years ago.

I heard about Yankel almost as soon as I met her. And every time I visited her. It was just bits and pieces each time and it was hard to make out the complete story. Yankel was the man she could have - or should have - married. I don't know why she didn't. I don't know if she spent her life regretting her decision. Her family seemed embarrassed by it and were reluctant to fill in the details. But I was drawn to the romance  and so saddened by the longing in her voice.

She married someone else - the person she'd ultimately spend the next seventy years with. They raised a large family, and, at least from her family's point of view, she had a good and happy life.

But at the end of her life, she never forgot Yankel.

Years later, I remember this woman. And I remember Yankel. And what saddens me most is the she lived the last years of her life regretting what could have been.

Sometimes I find myself doing the same thing. I look back at my life - at things that happened, things I've been through - and I wish I could relive it. I wish I could go back and do things differently. I wish I knew then what I know today. I could have saved myself so much much pain.

But I don't want to be a ninety year old woman, looking back at my life with regrets.

I couldn't have done things differently. Everything happened the way it was meant to. The decisions I made and all that I've been through contributed to the person I became. My life experience is a part of me. A part of who I am.

And I don't regret that.


  1. I spend lots of time at a nursing home and I find that many elderly people spend too much time in regret. It makes me stay aware and work on it now!

  2. Wow, that's such a good lesson to take!
    It takes real strength to be able to say that.

  3. I love this post!! Just what I needed to hear now! Thanx!

  4. I just found your blog through a link on another blog and so happy I did!
    What happens to people when they age is devastating but regret is most devastating of all. Are your regrets things that you are still able to change?

  5. I've had times when I did that too but I know that people make mistakes, and the best anyone can do is learn from them.

    Regret is worthless...Experience is priceless.