March 28, 2008

A Life Without Regrets

Music that accompanies this post includes:

My Way- Frank Sinatra
Suspicious Minds- Elvis Presley
Hurt- Johnny Cash Cover version
Whiskey Lullaby- Brad Paisley & Allison Krauss (Live version here)
You're Gonna Miss This- Trace Adkins

Believe it or not my children and I talk about a lot of things besides body parts and funny noises.

Lately my son and I have spent quite a bit of time talking about what happens when you grow up. He wants to know if you have to get married and how you decide what kind of job you are going to have.

I really enjoy these discussions. He is still so very innocent and open to so many different ideas and possibilities. A blank tablet. I often wonder what he is going to draw there. What kind of man is he going to grow up to be. I do my best to try and give him some guidance, teach him what to look out for, who to avoid and how to get all that he wants.

The bottom line is that I want my children to live a life without regret. One day, a thousand years from now when they look back I want them to have more than a wistful smile. I want them to talk to their grandchildren about having lived a very full and rich life. I suppose that some people might ask what that means.

The answer is that it is different for everyone.

I am not sure if anyone can really say that they lived a life without regret. There are always things that we do that we look back upon and shake our heads. We're human. We're fallible. You can't always hit a homerun, sometimes you can't even get on a base. But if you can stay above the Mendoza Line things are probably going to be ok.

It is funny in a weird coincidental sort of way that the big guy decided to have these conversations with me. This is the first year in a long time that I have really been aware of my birthday. For the longest time I have been between milestones. I still am. In May I'll turn 39. Just one more year until 40.

Forty doesn't sound old to me. As a kid I remember people making a big deal out of it. So many comments about 40 being when you have a midlife crisis. I have two grandparents who are 94. That is more than double my age so I figure that I still have a while before anyone can truly call me middle aged.

Still, it is hard not to take a look at myself and wonder if this is all there is. It is hard to look in the mirror and not recognize the guy looking back at me. In my mind I see that 19-20 year-old guy. Flat stomach, full head of hair, metabolism that let him eat with reckless abandon. He is still there. I know that he is.

Yet, the look in my eyes is different. My mother used to speak of a mischievous glint in my eye. My sisters all say that they can always tell when I am up to something. That glint is accompanied by a smile and sometimes a full laugh.

Except, the guy looking back at me seems to be missing those things. It is an older face, worn and a bit weathered. The lines and the never ending five o'clock shadow give an edge that never used to be.
Musical interlude:

Boys of Summer- Don Henley
Just Another Day- Jon Secada
Just Another Day live- Oingo Boingo (Video version)
Still, I am not as melancholy as I might sound. Sentimental, but not totally mired in sadness. Confused and unsure about a few things, but age has given me a few gifts, more on that later.

If you asked I could give you a list of regrets. It is not a huge list. There are a few key items on there that I still might be able to change. I have a lot of time and infinite energy to try and grab that brass ring. The ponies go up and they go down. Sometimes you just have to have faith that when you go up you end up with the silver instead of the brass.

Seeing as I have Oingo Boingo playing in the background let me share some lyrics from We Close Our Eyes. I kind of like these.
"And if you come to me
And if you touch my hand
I might just slip away
I might just disappear
Who am i?
And if you think Im worth it
And if you think its not too late
We might start falling
If we dont try to hard
We might start falling in love

(chorus)

We're on the healing path
We're on a roller coaster ride
That could never turn back
And if you love me
And if you really try
To make the seconds count
Then we can close our eyes"
So I sit on his bed and listen to him read a story to me. This boy, this very large boy who once fit into my arm. The baby I held in a pretend Heisman Trophy stance asks me what he should be when he grows up.

"Happy." That is all I want. Just for you to be happy.

But at seven he is too young for major philosophical discussions so we try to focus the conversation. I explain that he should learn every day, that knowledge is a tool that he can use to take him anywhere. I sound like such a cheesy greeting card, but it is true.

He wants to know if he can get a job working with me. He says that it will be really cool and that he'll be a good listener. I smile and tell him not to worry about it. I don't mention that today I heard that a few more of the boys are getting divorced. I can't help but chuckle thinking about it. He doesn't like girls, he'd be happy to hear that the boys were going to live on their own.

Ok, secretly he does like girls. He won't admit it but he loves it when they chase him.

He asks why I didn't work with my dad and we have a brief conversation about why people have different interests. He nods his head and tells me that it sounds a little weird to him when I call my parents "mom" and "dad." He has seen a lot of pictures of me as a child, but he can't quite reconcile the boy I was with who I am today.

That is ok, I am not sure I can either.

6 comments:

Brian said...

I know a lot of those feelings Jack.

Great post.

Jack said...

Hi Brian,

Thanks. How are things in Oklahoma?

Batya said...

"without regrets" is too close to never apologizing, never admitting you've made a mistake.

Jack said...

Batya,

That is one way of looking at it, but my intent here is different.

What I am trying to say is that I want my children to "go for it." I want them to not be afraid to "take a risk."

I am not suggesting that the should act irresponsibly or without a care for others.

It is about being able to say that you went for your dreams. They may not work out, but at least you tried.

RivkA with a capital A said...

Nice Post.

Lately, I've had a number of these semi-philosophical conversations with my kids.

I often wonder when I stopped asking the questions and started giving out the answers. What do I know anyway??

On a different topic, I could try hosting HH. I like waffles....

:-)

Jack said...

What do I know anyway??

Enough.