We all say or think it at some point.
I wish I had the chance to spend a little more time with him/her. There are things I would have said, questions I’d like to ask, so much more I’d like to know.
So I’m asking you here. Who would that be for you and what would you say or ask if you had a few more minutes. An hour. A day.
For me it would be my father. He died of a heart attack at the much too young age of 62. Unlike my mother who was bigger than life, my father was more quiet and reserved. He died in 1980 when I was 28 years old. I was already married for six years, had two young children and just bought our first home a few years earlier. I was working two jobs at the time and like most young people, I was busy with my own family and trying to make ends meet. I never even considered the possibility of losing my father.
And then I did.
Losing a parent is such a strange feeling, in part because you believe they’ll always be there. They’ve lived a good part of their own lives without you, but you have never lived without them in your own. So in an instant, it feels as if a part of your past has been removed.
I had a great relationship with my Dad, but I never asked him a lot of questions. Maybe most kids don’t. As I’ve gotten older, I always thought it strange that sometimes parents live a significant portion of their lives without their children knowing very much about their past, especially since a child’s life is often influenced by their parents life.
I guess I was too busy playing with my friends when I was younger and too absorbed in my own family when I got a little older. But I remember, shortly before he died, starting to ask him questions about life, especially his.
My Dad was born in 1917 and I was told by my Aunt that he wanted to be an engineer but the great depression got in the way and he had to get a job to help out financially. He never spoke about that, just like he never spoke about the years he spent in the army in World War II. He met my mom and they took over my grandfathers business. It was a small store where he cut meat and sold groceries. The typical neighborhood grocery store where everyone hung out. I’ve often told anyone who would listen, if anyone had a better childhood than me, I haven’t met them. I had the best time and I thank my parents for that.
But I wish I knew more about how he felt and what really made him tick. He and my Mom had a great relationship. We lived behind the store in a small apartment so they were together 24/7 and yet, I never heard them argue about anything or raise their voices to each other.
If I had a few more hours, I’d like to know more about his childhood and what it was like growing up in Brooklyn back then. I know his Mom died when he was young and they had a house fire one year around Christmas. But I always wondered how that affected him and how he felt about missing the chance to fulfill his dream of becoming an engineer. Was it the great depression that got in the way? The war? The fact that he was one of six children? Something else?
I’d like to know more about his time in the war, what he saw and where he was stationed. He never spoke much about it. But many of that generation never did.
I would ask him how it felt to have to close their grocery store because supermarkets took over and how difficult it must have been to go out and work for someone else later in life.
I’d like to know the things he used to do as a kid, where he went, who he hung out with, if he ever got into trouble and what it was he did. What kind of student was he? What subjects did he like/dislike and why?
I’d like to know if there was anyplace in the world he wished he could have visited and why he never went.
I’d like to know if he has any regrets, or any period of his life he wished he could repeat and why.
I’d like him to know that I miss him and even though I kissed him and told him I loved him every time saw him, I’m not sure I showed him enough. I want him to know how much he’s influenced my life and how much I admired the gentleman he was.
I’m pretty sure the questions I’d ask would lead to more questions so time, as is usually the case, would not be a friend.
So if you had the chance, who would you like to speak with? What would you ask?
Maybe you were one of the smart ones and said all you needed to say; asked all you wanted to know.
If not, and that person is still with you, maybe now is a good time to start.