I pride myself in never having regrets. Every moment. Every experience I have ever had lead me to exactly where I am today. I wouldn’t be who I am today without those experience….regardless of how horrible they were.
I haven’t lost many people in my life to death. Both of my paternal grandparents were gone before I was born. My maternal grandfather passed away when I was 9 so I don’t remember it much. My maternal grandmother passed away when I was in high school. That was my first experience with loss. My uncle passed away 2 years ago. That was difficult.
This, however, is completely different. This isn’t a family member. This is my first experience losing a friend. Someone I chose to cultivate a relationship. Someone I chose to trust and love.
Growing up, I lived across the yard from a wonderful couple. At 3 years old, I befriended both of them. They were in their 60’s at the time. They were like a new set of grandparents. The husband taught me about gardening and caring for your yard and as many outdoor things as you could think of. The wife taught me how to can strawberries, how to knit and purl, and most importantly, she introduced me to my love of the piano.
Let me tell you their story…..mostly because I think it is a love story worth knowing. They met while they were working together. She, Shirley, was a third grade teacher. He, Elmer, was the janitor. They began casually dating each other. One night, Shirley was on a date with another man. He didn’t have a car so he would take a cab to her house and then drive her car on their date. The weather was horrible and when it was time to leave the restaurant, he asked if she would be ok driving home by herself. It would be easier for him to just take a cab home from the restaurant, you see. So Shirley drove herself home in a horrible snow storm. When she got home, her mother said, “Oh that nice Elmer called to make sure you got home okay.” She was on a date with ANOTHER MAN and he called to check on her. Shirley thought “what am I doing dating this jerk when Elmer is right in front of me?” They’ve been together ever since. 65+ years of marriage and they never once got into an argument. No voices raised, no tempers flared, nothing.
I spent many years of my childhood in their house and their backyard. I had dinner there probably once a week. And then I became a teenager and went to college and my time with them faded. I remember coming home for Christmas as a freshman in college and being upset that they had decorated their christmas tree without me. It was something we always did together.
I’m playing the coulda, woulda, shoulda game with myself today. Like I said, I pride myself in having no regrets. However, this may be the only one I’ve ever had, and glad that I have. I wish I would have spent more time with them as an adult. They were fascinating people. They were raised in the area. Their childhood farms were the first in the area. They traveled all over the world. They didn’t have children so they focused their spare time into enriching their lives in other ways. Obviously, my life is completely different, but growing up I wanted to be them. I could have made the time to go over and visit them. I could have called them to check in. I wish I could have played piano with her more. I wish he would have taught me his secret to growing a 12 foot high rhododendron bush. I wish they both could have gotten to know my husband and my child. I should have done so many things to make my relationship with them continue to thrive.
I’m writing this down because I want to remember this day. I want to remember the regret I feel right now for not putting in more effort. I don’t know when people aren’t going to be around any more and I want to make sure that while they are here, I spend as much time with them as possible and make sure the relationship is the way I want it to be.