My father taught me two very important lessons about life: When in doubt, always use a conversion factor, and see to it that you live a life free of regret, both in actions and in words.
That first lesson came in handy during my studies in both high school and college chemistry. The other lesson, sadly, turned out to be less scientific and a bit more complicated than I ever could have anticipated. And it’s one that, ironically, has thundered in my ears far louder after he died.
As much as we yearn for it, we don’t have the power to go back in time and do a regret reboot, saying everything to everyone that we wished we had the last time we had the chance. But wouldn’t it help ease the pain – even if only a tiny portion of it – if we could at least give a voice to those regrets? Is it ever really too late?
Father’s Day usually gets me thinking of the good times, and I’m sure I’ll remember plenty of those this year as well, but I’m also thinking of those missed chances this year.
I regret those times I pulled away as my father tried to pat me on the back, or the times I exercised my eyes by rolling them in response to another one of his corny jokes. And OK, in the name of complete truth-telling, I may have sarcastically called him Einstein, or punched his stomach as I called him Fat Boy a time or two (or maybe three or four…). I chalk my behavior up to being a teenager, but the adult me really misses those moments.
All my antics never stopped my father from trying, though.
I’m even starting to regret some of that anger I’ve let bottle up for six years. Anger at the cancer. Anger over my feelings that my father didn’t try hard enough. Anger at him for “leaving his family behind.” And maybe I’ve even turned some of that anger inward and let it wreck havoc on myself. Maybe I didn’t tell him enough how much I loved him while he was having chemo and radiation. Maybe I should have told him one more time how proud I was of him, how he was still “my dad, the hero” that he’d always been.
All that, I see now, never stopped my father from fighting – even if it was only for those four months. It was a long battle, but he fought it the only way he knew how: like a soldier.
It can be overwhelming, I know, saying or doing what seems so scary in the moment. But trust me, a lifetime of regret will seem like an eternity compared to that uncomfortable miniscule moment in time.
Maybe you figure you’ll just wait until Father’s Day and pour out all your emotions in a Hallmark card. Or maybe you just won’t say anything at all. After all, he has to know how you feel, doesn’t he? You’ve already told him. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather say it one too many times than not enough.
I won’t have the Hallmark luxury this year, but maybe you will. I certainly hope you do.
I hope, wherever my father might be, that he’ll somehow hear my Hallmark card someday.