Wednesday, February 28, 2007

If I could turn back time

Is there anything in my life that I wish I could go back and do differently? Yes, there is the one thing. Thanks, Dooce, for asking and for giving me this opportunity to get it off my chest.

As a matter of practice, I don't believe in regrets. Which is not to say that I don't look back at decisions I've made and wonder what in God's name I was thinking. But that's the beauty of it. Regularly fucking up and ending up in places I never intended to be is really... well, interesting. Discovering where my accidents and missteps shall take me is an integral part of this great chaos I call my life. So my only regrets tend to be about incidentals, like I really wish I would have gotten a giant cobb salad from Anthony's for lunch. I'm regretting my decision to spend almost as much money on the lame imitation of a cobb offered up by the traveling deli in the lunch room. But I'm pretty sure that's not going to keep me up at night.

However, there is one thing that makes me sick with guilt every time I think of it. Something that does, in fact, keep me up some nights. Worse than ruining a high school friendship by sleeping with my friend's ex-boyfriend (but not before she slept with my ex-boyfriend). Worse than the time I got so angry at my mother I couldn't stand to be in the car with her for one more second, and so threw myself from it. And far more short sighted than not taking that one perfect job that wouldn't have paid my mortgage, but would have made me ridiculously happy. Those things all count as whoopses - minor blips on the "That Was Stupid" radar screen of my life - but nothing I'll lament on my death bed. Except this:

I couldn't bring myself to be the one to tell my brother that our dad was dead. I made every other call. I called him in the middle of the night to tell him something was horribly, horribly wrong; I called him before every emergency surgery that was just as likely to kill as save; I called with every new piece of bad news: complete liver failure, lung failure, septic infection, kidney failure, organs bursting, colons tearing; I called after we'd signed the papers to remove life support; I called the next morning to report that today would be the day. But two hours later, when it was finally over, I COULD NOT walk my ass over to the phones to call my him. Deliberately telling my baby brother - only 20 years old at the time - something that I knew would so completely break his heart was something I was simply incapable of. I knew that even if I managed to physically get myself to the phones, I would never have been able to speak when he answered. But here's the thing: I wouldn't have had to. He would've known it was me. He would've known what the silence meant. And we would have dealt with it together.

Instead, my now ex-husband made the call. I allowed my brother to hear that his father was dead from a man he'd only met a handful of times. It is something for which I doubt I will ever forgive myself, and is my one and only true regret.

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