I will regret a few things about this life, assuming that I am able to feel regret in whatever existence follows.
I will regret that I remained silent when I should have spoken on more than one occasion. I can remember times when my unspoken words formed a bitter betrayal. The baleful eyes of people who wanted me to speak on their behalf haunt me. I think they know who they are. One or two might come across this blog entry. For them, I offer the one brief sentence that might ease any lingering pain. I am sorry.
A few times when I did speak cause me regret. Years ago, I met a man who knew my brother Stephen. He asked me to tell him something embarrassing about Steve from our childhood. I related a story of tenderness which showed my two younger brothers to have been helpful, happy children. The account also portrayed their undying protectiveness of my mother. Later, when I told my brother that I had met this man, he asked me if I talked about him to the guy. I shook my head. He urged me never to speak to the fellow again. He’s a snake in the grass, he told me. He’ll use any information you give him against me.
I can’t apologize to Stephen because he’s dead. To his spirit then; to Frank maybe, although I don’t think the man knew both of them. The very basest part of this event lies in my motivation both for telling the story and for denying having done so. I wanted to be liked. I have never forgiven my own treachery.
As odd as it sounds to those who know me, I don’t regret loving any of the men to whom I gave my devotion — not the lawyer who lured me to Montana only to dump me by answering machine message before I got back home; not my son’s father; nor my three husbands; nor the one or two other men to whom I professed the sentiment called “love”. They, too, know who they are; and if they ever read this, they can turn away from their computer monitors with a slight flush on their cheeks, remembering the sound of my voice. To them, I make no apology. For loving them, I carry no shame and have no regret.
I don’t regret this piece of Olallieberry pie that I have torn to pieces on the plate in front of me. Its tartness sits in my mouth like something sacred. Nor do I regret the money spent for these two days on the coast, or the gathering dust which will greet me on my return to Angel’s Haven. Sometimes these little segues give us precisely the correct antidote for whatever ailment drove us to seek them out.
As I walked down the driveway to Whale, the house in which I’m sleeping here at HI Pigeon Point, a family trudged by. Two little girls scampered between their parents. The father walked in front with an armful of luggage while the mother straggled behind, carrying a sleeping baby. The smaller of the toddlers turned to stare at me, her little rosebud mouth hanging open as she surveyed my legs. Whether in awe of my flowered tights or shock at the awkward gait, I cannot say. I smiled and she ran ahead, whispering something to her sister. As they made their way to Seal, I felt a shiver of unbidden self-loathing form in my belly.
One thing I do lament, which I did not control and can never make right: the damage done to my body by a damn little bug when I had not yet attained even two years of age. The turmoil that stupid virus has caused cannot be underplayed. I have spent the better part of sixty years undoing the sourness which it left in its initial wake and later, in its reawakening. I know a lot of people who never let their disabilities or illnesses stand between them and most of society. I admire those people. I yearn for the easy grace with which they wear the badge of their distinctiveness.
I waited until the door clicked behind the family and then went into the neighboring house and poured a cold cup of coffee. Clutching the pie in its plastic clamshell, I sank into a chair and stared out of the window. I sat for a long time, as the sky darkened and the moon rose behind the lighthouse. When I could no longer see, I stood, crossed the room, and turned on the light.
It’s evening on the twenty-eighth day of the forty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.