Monday, January 28, 2008

Regrets, I've Had More Than a Few

This morning, I dropped Dylan off at his school. He asked me if I'd stay with him for the morning. (His school encourages parents to spend time with their kids in the classroom.) I had to tell him that his godfather, after a visit, had left his cell phone behind, and that I had to FedEx it off to him. "Can't you do it tomorrow, Daddy?" I sighed. It's my first school day at home, and I always try to hang out with him at school when I get home. "Well, Punkin', he's flying to New York for his job Wednesday, so I have to ship it today." A flash of disappointment flashed across my little guy's face. I hugged him, kissed him on the head (okay again, since he learned that his friends think it's cool that Daddy is a helicopter pilot), and watched him run off to play with his friends. I thought there was a subdued quality to his body language. Maybe it was my imagination. Gosh, I hope so.

I wanted to write today, but I couldn't think of anything that wanted to travel to my fingers. Then I re-read a blog post here, by a guy named Mike. It got me thinking of the regrets in my life. Funny, I have plenty to feel ashamed of, to feel embarrassed about, to want to forget. But what came to mind this morning was one little moment from when I was five years old.

My grandmother, my dad's mom, worked as a private nurse. One of her clients was a wealthy widow who lived on a ranch estate outside of Thousand Oaks, California. She would invite my grandmother to bring the family by now and then to use her Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Usually, at least a dozen family members would show up: my mom, dad, little sister, a few among the seven of my dad's brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts. Everyone seemed to have a good time.

Now, my dad wasn't a perfect dad. Neither was he neglectful or abusive. Like most dads, he was somewhere in the middle. He did one hell of a better job being a dad than his father.

I never really knew my grandfather, my dad's dad. I only remember meeting him once, when I was seven. He and my grandmother divorced shortly after I was born.

I always felt that my dad carried a lot of sadness with him. Even as a kid, I assumed it was because of his upbringing. My grandfather was an on again, off again professional gambler, and was absent through much of my dad's childhood. His mother was often severe and unloving.

But that day in the pool, my dad seemed very happy. He was cracking jokes, and had the whole family in stitches of laughter. Even my grandmother was laughing and having a good time. I don't remember that happening so often.

My dad watched me jump into the shallow end of the pool, then climb back up again. He laughed, then lunged up to grab me. One of my uncles bumped into Dad, and as he dropped me into the pool, my chin bumped the edge. Not very hard, really. It didn't hurt so much as startle me, but I began to cry. I tried to hold back as I saw the look in my dad's eyes change from joy to concern, and maybe, guilt. I tried to laugh as Dad checked out my chin. "You okay now?" "Yeah Daddy, I'm okay."

The pool party went on, and everyone continued to have a good time. My dad kept cracking jokes, but the light I'd seen in his eyes earlier was gone.

I remember watching him, and feeling as though I'd taken something away from him. Why did I have to be such a crybaby? I desperately wanted God to grant me a do-over, so I could see that joy in his eyes again. He deserved more joy.

But then, I was only five. Maybe the change I saw in his eyes was only in my imagination.

Gosh, I hope so.


Redlefty said...

Great writing, Hal.

Uncle E said...

Very excellent, poignant post, Hal. Thanks for writing it.
You know, the hardest part of my day is dropping Kylie off at school. Because I get there so early I try to stay with her until at least one of her little friends arrive, so she won't be alone. But there are those occasions, albeit rare, that I have to leave her there with no one but the on-duty teacher and a bunch of older kids. And it kills me, absolutly slays me, to walk off and see her waving bye bye and then, when she thinks I'm out of sight, just kind of starts shuffling around looking for someone to play with.
It's very tough.
Again, excellent post, Hal.

Mike said...

Thanks for the mention!

Isn't it mysterious how those little bitty moments stick in our minds?


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