Photographs, Regret, and Building Memories
Last night my daughter was looking at some of her photo albums. The pictures were of the times she spent with my parents. Seeing the photos of birthdays, vacations, and just hanging out with family I noticed, someone was missing. It was me.
I had to pause for a moment of reflection. Reflection about my choices. My time in the Army and Coast Guard has been rewarding and most days I love it. Unfortunately serving in the military does come at a price. There are things you can’t get back when you serve on board a cutter, work nights, work weekends, or travel for temporary duty. The time with your family dissolves into a memory you have with phone conversations and emails. You hear second hand the story of your life. A life that has imprinted an image in your daughter’s mind, with out you being part of it.
Regret is a heavy word. It is one of those words that can sit on your shoulders, push you down to the ground, and preoccupy you to the point you forget right now. I could easily say I regret all of the time I was away, but I feeling bad won’t change anything.
Reality is a more appropriate word. The reality of the situation is I was a single parent, I was the provider for my family, I had good medical and dental coverage, I was able to put food on the table. This is not intended as justification but as I look back, I was doing the best I knew how. I recognize there were times my best was not good enough and other times when it was. So it’s hard to have regret but I can say that I learned.
As I sit back now in a more comfortable spot I can look back. I can see where I erred. I can see how I could have done things better. But like I said, I learned. Learning is the only thing I can do since there is no Delorean pulling up to chauffeur me away at 88 mph. Then again I love where I am now, and the lessons from the butter fly theory could change everything. Maybe it’s better to leave the past, in the past.
I’ll stick with the philosophy of Rafiki in The Lion King, you can either learn from the past or run from it. I’m all for learning. I can sit here in the now and feel sorry for myself for the birthdays and special moments I’ve missed or make the choice to be the best mom I know how to be.
I’ve learned I can’t make up for lost time with expensive gifts, because it’s just stuff. I can’t make up for lost time with my own expectations of how things should be. But what I can do is listen more and talk less. Talk more softly, especially when I am angry or frustrated. Go to as many games as I can. Watch the school concerts and dote over my daughter singing a solo. Try and be interested in the things she likes even if I don’t like them. And of course take the time to have fun dancing and singing in the living room.
I realize I will never be able to put myself in any of those old photographs. But I do have the power to place myself in my daughter’s memory with things I do today.