Two days ago, my almost-85-year-old father died. It happened peacefully at home before breakfast on Monday morning. It was not unexpected — on the contrary, he’d been battling MRSA for several years, and undergoing thrice-weekly kidney dialysis for over two years.
He’d had a pretty full life: he served in the Army in Germany during WWII, got married, had 4 children, 14 grandchildren and 1 great-granddaughter (so far). He won photography awards year after year. Professionally, he was a geologist, with a side foray into archaeology in his later years. He was active in volunteer and professional organizations.
He had a wonderful, dry wit and he loved puns.
At the end, he lived with his wife of 58 years (my mother) and his grandson, who had moved in with them a couple of years ago to help with his care (my youngest son. I’m so proud of him!).
Those of us who loved him had watched him deteriorate physically, sometimes in giant plunges and sometimes in baby stumbles. It was scary and terribly sad to watch a man who loved to read, a talented photographer, unable to do either as macular degeneration took its toll. It was horrifying to see a man who’d been active and engaged in scientific pursuits letting his microscope and other instruments collect dust as he didn’t have the energy to continue his research and consulting work. As his physical capacity shrank, so did his conversation.
Now, even that is gone.
Regrets: The Road Not Taken
According to an article at AARP:
“Researchers have noticed age-related distinctions in how and why we experience regret. The young are more likely to regret things they did rather than things they didn’t do. After all, at that stage in life there’s still time to see Australia, climb K2, or write a novel. But as we age, this tendency reverses, and it’s what you didn’t do that stings. When you look back and see all the mountains left unclimbed, the sense of loss can be devastating.” Read the entire article
My father’s death has reminded me — viciously and viscerally — just how short life is. If you delay your plans, hopes and dreams too long, you may never experience their reality.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to live in another country. I didn’t do it when I was young and unencumbered. I didn’t do it when I had a young family, or a growing family.
Now I’m rapidly approaching an empty nest, and I’ve been making plans to finally make the move. I don’t want that particular missed opportunity to remain on my stockpile of regrets.
My father’s passing has reminded me that I need to hurry.