Yes I don’t have many regrets in life. In fact, I try to live without them. But of the few I have, there’s one that bothers me the most. It bothers me because no matter how good of a person I try to be, I know I had these past moments of anger and pettiness that I’ll never forget. And that made me a horrible person.
I don’t remember the context of the conversation, but I remember a family dinner with my parents, both of my maternal grandparents, my brother, sister, my husband at the time, and my 1/1/2 year old daughter. It was dark outside, no light breaking through the sliding glass doors to the deck. Grandma was to my right, my daughter’s high chair squeezed between us. My grandfather, Pop Pop, sat at the opposite end of the table from Gram.
Whatever the conversation, Pop Pop had been really cranky the past few days. The conversation became heated, it escalated, and finally, having completely lost my temper with him, I asked him why he didn’t die already.
Harsh, I know. Probably the worst words ever uttered to someone. I instantly regretted it, but it did end the argument and I guess he realized just how miserable he had been the last few days.
But as for me, I let the anger envelop me. The next few days I avoided him, didn’t speak to him. Four nights later, just as Pop Pop was heading off to bed and I sat at the dining room table, he paused in the kitchen. He called to me, and wished me goodnight. And me in my pettiness, I said nothing. I ignored him. He lingered a few moments, waiting for me to respond, but I never did and he retired to his room for the night.
The next morning, as I was hurriedly getting ready for my class at the local university, I noticed Pop Pop had been in the bathroom an unusually long time. I needed to brush me teeth and put in my contacts, but I let it go until it was the very last things I needed to do. Finally I couldn’t wait any longer and I rapped on the bathroom door.
I called him by name. Still no answer.
My heart racing and not knowing what to do, I ran up to Gram’s room and told her what was going on. She came down and also knocked and called to him, with no answer. She tried to open the door. It was blocked.
It was my turn to try. I got the door open a sliver and could see my grandfather curled on the floor, his walker against the sink. I struggled to push the door open further, it scooted him slightly out of the way. He was purple.
The next hour or so is a blur, but I remember a frantic 911 call, my husband trying to do CPR, calling out of class for the day and an EMT grabbing the phone from me when I sank into a sobbing mess on my bed.
The point here I want to make is that in my moments of pettiness, my grandfather died thinking I hated him. I let my anger consume me and it is one of my biggest regrets in life.
People say that he was hanging on and I gave him a release, told him it was okay to go. I say that’s bullshit. I was an asshole. People say he knows I didn’t mean it, that he knows I love him, but that’s bullshit too. If there is no afterlife, that man died thinking I hated him. If there is an afterlife, but we don’t achieve an all knowing consciousness, he doesn’t know how much I love him and regret what I said to him. I am a horrible human being, and this is just one of many reasons that I hate myself.
I have cried many tears over this, but there’s no penance I can do, nothing I can ever say or do to make this right. And so, it eats me up.
Just the first of many confessions of a depressive self-loather.