The dictionary definition of “regret” is:
verb (used with object)
1. to feel sorrow or remorse for (an act, fault, disappointment, etc.): He no sooner spoke than he regretted it.
2. to think of with a sense of loss: to regret one’s vanished youth.
3. a sense of loss, disappointment, dissatisfaction, etc.
4. a feeling of sorrow or remorse for a fault, act, loss, disappointment, etc.
5. regrets, a polite, usually formal refusal of an invitation: I sent her my regrets.
6. a note expressing regret at one’s inability to accept an invitation: I have had four acceptances and one regret.

I have been trying to figure out the difference between things in my past I regret vs things in my past I just chalk up to bad decision-making. There is loss, disappointment, sorrow. But all those can exist on their own without regret being attached.

The difference I see is that regret happens when you don’t live up to your own standards.
It is more of a feeling of failing oneself.

I have regrets. I wish I’d helped my dad more.
My pop was an alcoholic and addict who constantly tried very hard to better himself.
He died in 2006 of a prescription drug overdose.

He and I talked often about what he was going through. He was in an out of AA, the last stretch he had a sponsor. I was sympathetic, but my life took precedent. In retrospect, instead of just our conversations about it, I could have done research on alcoholism in order to understand the disease better. I could have been more actively supportive of his AA and asked him more often how that was going.

In 2005, he checked himself into a hospital under a self-imposed suicide watch. Our immediate family in NY counseled me not to go. They said that he didn’t want me to see him in that situation, but they thought I should know. I should have flown to New York anyway.

I know, the cliché “hindsight is 20/20” applies here, but only to a certain degree. I can’t let myself off the hook that easily. Sure, I was where I was, but I don’t think I did the best I could at the moment. Saying otherwise would be relativistic and thus make the case that I did the best I could do with where I was at the time. And I think that’s b.s.
I’m intelligent, resourceful, and try to be considerate. So, why didn’t I put those skills to the test when it came to my dad?

There is the truth that you can’t help someone who isn’t willing to help themselves, but he was working on it.
And I wish I’d been there for him more.

I’m sorry, dad.

1 thought on “regret

  1. Brutally beautiful. Saying it doesn’t fix anything, but does release pain. Thank you for being brave enough to write the words we all so often feel.

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