Many of us find we failed to really appreciate the two people who were our parents when we were young. Aging… Becoming a parent ourselves… Realizing that the world requires tricky navigation… You are reminded of a snippet of conversation, or you recall an event; you’re rather fuzzy on the details, but you know there was a lesson in there somewhere. Where we’ve come from has a great deal to do with where we’re headed. One of the questions I ask my Communication students to ponder, every semester, is: “What happened in your past that changed how you communicate today?”
After about a year of marriage to my first husband, we decided it was time to buy a car. He drove a red Datsun that I hated. I NEVER quite conquered the stick shift. I couldn’t talk with my hands, steer with my knees and use BOTH feet to get where I wanted to go! He even made me drive that red monster across the Greater New Orleans Bridge a few times. I sweated with anticipation, knowing a wreck was imminent. Therefore, I was thrilled one day when he suggested we visit a Westbank car dealership to look at their new 1975 Pontiacs. We were heading to my parent’s home anyway; daddy had called to tell me he’d found a remarkable blackberry patch hidden down by the old pumping station. He had the buckets ready-just hurry and get here!
We were young and broke, but we stuck together. After an hour or so, we walked out as proud owners of the advertised $5995, Bimini Blue Pontiac LeMans. MY FIRST NEW CAR! We were also wondering how we’d pay that outrageous car note, probably less than a hundred bucks a month, for the next three years.
Daddy never really drove a car, to my knowledge. He went to his grave without a driver’s license. There were rumors about a jeep accident he was involved in during WWII, but that’s all they amounted to…rumors. Didn’t bother him one bit; NOPSI busses mostly ran on time. I do recall him trying to learn once. He steered our neighbor’s station wagon toward the lagoon at Brechtel Park. Our ever-patient neighbor made a gentle suggestion:
“John, you might wanna look out the windshield from time-to-time. You can’t just stare at your feet.”
We kids sat in the backseat laughing, kinda hoping we would go into the drink–what a story that would make! Daddy shut the car off. He handed the keys back to Mr. Bob, opened the door and walked around to the passenger side. That was the end of that!
On the day of the new car purchase, we got to my parent’s house just as the sun was setting. Daddy said nothing as I breathlessly spilled out the details of the car I’d soon be driving. I was talking insurance talk, hoping to impress: Deductibles. Collision. Comprehensive. Uninsured Motorist. Words like that were never uttered at our kitchen table, I was sure of it. My mama nodded; she seemed genuinely happy for us. Daddy pushed away his chair from the table.
“You can buy a car any time. You can’t pick blackberries when they’re not in season.”
Whenever I pick blackberries today, those words eat at me. At the time, it angered me that my daddy couldn’t share my excitement. Just because he had no need for a car didn’t mean I wouldn’t need or want one! Couldn’t he see that?
So many times, as a wife, parent or friend, I’ve disappointed others by putting my needs first. I think of time lost with my own children when I had something so pressing, so urgent to do, that I figured they could just wait. And they did. And they grew up. And they’ve made me wait. It’s just life; no one means any harm. Still, who wouldn’t give all they possess for a do-over some days?
Part of reflecting on our past mistakes is to appreciate the lessons we‘ve learned. It makes me sad to remember how often I dropped a handful of important to grasp fleeting crumbs of mundane. Part of reflecting on the present makes us happy to realize we do get do-overs.
And, if we’re perceptive enough, we grab our buckets before the season passes.