Looking back on choices and regrets
I talked to my son, Craig, on Father’s Day. He’s 45, and a great kid. His 14-year-old dog, Suki, had died, and it broke him up.
Recently, I told my Sunday school class that as a baby boomer it can be difficult to look back on my life and think about my regrets. I can handle my mistakes, but I have difficulty handling my regrets.
Once when I was working with my dad, fixing fence, I ducked out of taking the steeples out of the posts so that I could watch my favorite cowboy show on television. My neighbor who was helping warned me that I would regret it, and he was right. Some 50 years later, I regret that I disappointed my dad that day.
We have a real local mission at our church to help the downtrodden, and one Sunday a fellow told us he lived in a car. I wasn’t thinking when I suggested that he lock his doors for security purposes. I really was being sincere, but he probably thought I was callous — he was looking for a long-term solution. I regret being tactless. Somebody else suggested rolling down his car windows, since it is unbearably hot inside the car. You can fry an egg on the sidewalk these days.
Regret probably isn’t the word because I treasure the memory of Craig, as a mischievous child, taking a break from burying our family dog, Sweetie, a Shih Tzu, to build a fort to play cowboys and Indians up on the hill by the grape arbor. We Swegles had a thing about cowboys in our adventurous youths.
So our flubs in our backgrounds are not really flubs. They are the rich texture that makes our lives memorable. As a dad, I’m proud of my little tyke who lives 1,000 miles away from me. He’s much like me. We both loved dogs. He was sad about Suki, and I about Sweetie.
The guy living in a car is much like me, as I was headstrong when I was young. I spent a lifetime taming my impetuous behavior. We have a choice, and sometimes we have regrets about choices. If we take a step back, we don’t have disappointments about the other road taken. We have real pride that in our country, we have that basic freedom of choice.
• Al Swegle, of Cedar Rapids, was farm editor for The Gazette from 1968-1987.