What If You Had The Chance

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.

 

 

73 thoughts on “What If You Had The Chance

  1. Miriam

    Oh George, I can so relate. I lost my dad 17 years ago when my first child was just 9 months old. My life was so full and busy but I was just starting to see the softer side of him when he passed away of cancer. He’d always been elusive when I was a kid but I look back now and realize I just didn’t understand him. As a traditional Italian man who’d lived through wars and hard times he didn’t show his emotions easily. I wish I could have time again to talk to him, get to know who he really was and his dreams. You wrote a lovely heartfelt post.

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Miriam. I think many of us have difficulty understanding our parents and that’s why is so important to find out more about them. In many ways they are products of their environment, as we all are.

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  2. cordeliasmom2012

    I would like to speak with my mother again. But that would be selfish. She died at the age of 90, and she was sick and in pain at the end, and told us she was very much ready to pass on. She’s at peace now.

    But the last few years she was alive, she told me a lot about her life. Maybe because I was now a grown woman, she felt comfortable telling me what her marriage was like (not as good as she led us to believe), what her dreams had been, and how she never regretted giving up her dreams because she had her children. I learned so much about her then, and I’m sorry we didn’t have a little more time together. Growing up, I only saw her as “Mom” – as an adult with my own family, I began to understand her as a woman.

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    1. George Post author

      That’s very true. As children we can only relate to our parents as we know them, never really appreciating or comprehending the fact that they were once 12 or in love or felt the excitement of a first child or had disappointments. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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  3. Ilona Elliott

    I love this post George! It’s something that speaks to all of us who have lost our parents. And it’s a loving tribute to your father. I was fortunate to have my Mom with me and to know that something was taking her from us over the last year or so of her life. We talked candidly about a lot of things. Being her caregiver made our relationship much more intimate. We had so many meaningful talks in the bathroom! I’m sorry you lost your Dad so young and suddenly. I’ll bet he would be proud of you. Time with our loved ones is precious and finite. Thanks for reminding us.

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Ilona. I think that sometimes parents who are sick or nearing the end of their lives have a tendency to open up more to their children about their own lives. Maybe it’s a need to help them understand. I’ve often wondered if my dad and I would have eventually had those same conversations but I’ll never know.

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  4. dianasschwenk

    This line is so powerful: They’ve lived a good part of their own lives without you, but you have never lived without them in your own.

    George you were still quite young to have lost a parent, I’m sorry you lost him so soon. It’s just 4 months since my dad passed away at 81. I’m 52. Still once you move out you don’t see your parents much. I recently read that you see your parents 93% of the time you will ever see them while you still live at home.

    I’ve always asked a lot of questions. and my dad told me many stories about his life. And still I have more questions that I would ask. I miss the stories. Just like you said in your post, time would not be your friend. There’s never enough time. ❤
    Diana xo

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    1. George Post author

      No there is never enough time so we have to make the most of it when we can. That statistic of 93% is pretty sobering but I can see how it’s true. I’m glad you asked so many questions and your dad was so willing to share his stories. That’s a gift you’ll always have.

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  5. Ann Coleman

    What a great post! First off, I have a feeling that your father does know exactly how much you loved him and how grateful you are for all he did for you. I’m so sorry you lost him at such a young age, and were left with all these questions about his life. That’s got to be hard.
    My experience was different, in that I knew a lot about my father, but at the end his mind was slipping, so there were many things left unsaid, and it was questionable whether or not he even understood fully what was said. And I still have my mother, and am much closer to her now than I was as a child and young woman.
    On the other hand, the one good thing about my mother in law being in a nursing home for so many years before she died was we were able to see a side of my father in law that none of us knew existed. He was so loyal and caring towards her, and even looked out for the other residents of the home who didn’t have family coming to visit regularly. Before that, I had thought of him as somewhat remote and just a bit difficult. My husband and all of us were truly blessed to see how giving he could be and how much he loved his wife.
    Thanks again for sharing this insight, and for reminding us all that time is running out to do and say the things we need to….

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Ann. I appreciate your kind words. I sometimes think the relationship between fathers and daughters are a little different in that daughters are more willing to ask questions and fathers may be more willing to answer. But of course that’s just a generalization. I’m so glad you asked so many questions and your dad was willing to answer them. It’s funny how age sometimes soften us. I don’t know if it’s because we face our own mortality or if age allows us to let our guard down and relax. But that’s another post…:) thanks again.

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  6. Jodi

    George – I am absolutely CERTAIN your father would be VERY proud of the man – the son- the husband – the father – and the grandfather – you have become. You are continuing his legacy – and he is smiling and happy and saying “good job – see you when you get here!” ❤

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  7. Sheila Moss

    Sounds as if you have experienced great sadness in your life. Sorry for your loss. Try not to be too hard on yourself. Everyone has regrets and things you would do differently in retrospect, but you do the best you know to do at the time. Glad you are able to write about it. I’ve found that writing helps to heal the hurt, at least in my life it has.

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you for your kind words, Sheila. I think we’ve all experienced sadness at some point in our lives but, on the contrary, I feel I’ve been very blessed and fortunate. You’re right, we all have some regrets and some things we wish we could do over but that’s all part of life. Thank you again.

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  8. davidprosser

    You’re right George. I bet we’ve all said that. For me, given that opportunity I’d like to speak to my Pops. That’s my mother’s dad. I loved both my mother’s parents but my Nan was a lively, chatty little lady while my Pops was much more reserved. He was no less loving but though I spent a lot of time at their house, I never got round to asking many questions. In the hallstand he had his helmet from WWI, and a gas mask. I’d like to have asked about the horror faced in the trenches and at places like Paschendale. He and my Nan both lived with my aunt when they died in 1975 a week apart and I also lived there helping to care for them when I wasn’t working. Although I was 24 at the time I don’t think I’d given any thought to losing them and how precious time can sometimes be.
    I had a horror of war from the way I felt in the 60’s. Not fear, because I did serve in the forces myself but I couldn’t understand how people could do such things to one another. I still can’t, hence my other site The Buthidars. I wonder if I didn’t get my quietness from my Pops.
    I try very hard to let my daughter know she can ask me anything and try to tell her anything I think might be of interest.Things that maybe she can share with her children if I’m not around.
    I envy you the relationship with your father. My experience was not the same.
    Hugs

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, David. Sometimes the experiences of our parents or grandparents shape their lives and influence our own. Like you, I would have like to ask your Pops about his experiences in WWl and I’m sure your experiences and his might have had many similarities. It’s good that you try and answer any questions your daughter has and maybe even offer some information she doesn’t ask for. We never know what our children may be curious about it thinking, just like they can’t be sure of our thoughts. That’s why is so important to ask. Thanks again , David.

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  9. Barb Knowles

    I love this post. My father was also born in 1917 and rarely spoke of WWII. He was a bomber pilot and had a couple of photos of flying over areas they had bombed in the war. I remember being little and asking him how it felt to know there were people there who died (cutting to the chase the way little kids do). He said oh, no, those were just munitions areas and there were no people hurt. That couldn’t possibly be true that there were no people nearby, but it was never spoken of again.
    Now that I’m researching my genealogy, there are so many questions that I wish I could have asked him, but never occurred to me at the time. Part of the reasons for my memoir essays is to write stories that I’ve never told my children. I want to tell these stories to give them answers to questions that they’ve never thought to ask.

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Barb. That’s a great idea about passing along stories to your children. You’re right, there are things they may never ask that were so important to you. It helps them understand more about what may have shaped your life and that so very important to both of you.

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  10. Pistachios

    I feel like this sort of thinking is increasingly shaping my interactions with other people. I mean this in the sense that I don’t like leaving things unsaid. It’s kind of hard to admit this, but I’m probably better at this with friends than family. My family isn’t very overtly affectionate or very open in general, and there have only been a handful of times when my parents have shared personal stories with my sister and me. I know there’s a lot more I could learn from my mum, and reading this post has helped motivate me to do that; and for that, I thank you 🙂

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you for saying that. I think, in general, it’s easier to open up to friends rather than family because friends sometimes are less judgmental. But people, and family, sometimes surprise us. Once we take that first step you never know what might happen. If nothing does, at least you can say you tried…:)

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  11. vanbytheriver

    Such a lovely way to honor your father, George. There are so many folks I’d have those conversations with, most importantly, my paternal grandmother. She raised me, was our “stay at home mom” and died when I was 6. I’d want to know about her life in Europe, why she immigrated alone to the U.S., how she survived losing her husband to severe depression and institutionalization, how she raised my dad to be the brilliant human he was. So many questions. And your last sentence is a favorite…such a profound statement. 💕

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Van. Having these conversations with parents is obvious, but you’re right, grandparents offer a whole different kind of story and perspective, especially if they came here from another country. Great stuff..:)

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  12. Kate Crimmins

    This one touched home. I lost my Dad when I was 10 and he was 55. There are so many things I’d love to ask him. He was very smart but had to take a laborer job during the depression. He was raised on a farm and pulled out of school around age 14 to work the farm. Life was different and much harder but you wouldn’t know it. Maybe it’s because that’s all they knew. I just have so many unanswered questions.

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  13. Hugh's Views and News

    I agree wholeheartedly with you, George. A few months ago, after the death of my mother, I realised there were lots I’d not asked her. Now when I visit my father, who is 83, and my aunt (his sister), I ask questions about their parents, about what they did, what school was like, etc, etc. I’ve been so surprised by not only what I have learned from them but by how much they enjoy telling me their stories. It’s a win-win situation.

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Hugh. I’m glad you have the chance to ask those questions that may have remained unanswered otherwise. There is so much about their lives that would help us understand them much better.

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  14. socialbridge

    George, a lovely post on a topic very close to my heart.
    I’m one of the lucky ones in relation to my late parents but I have a good friend who died very suddenly and feel there were far too many questions I never asked even though the cues were whispered.

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    1. George Post author

      That’s so frustrating because those questions usually remain unanswered and we always wonder how we may have reacted to them if we had understood and had the opportunity to respond.

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  15. aginggracefullymyass

    Funny – thoughts of my mother floated through my mind earlier today. She had taken my sister (16) and I (11) to the New York Worlds Fair in the summer of 1965 and we also saw a Broadway play – Do I Hear a Waltz – while we were in NYC. She died suddenly of pancreatic cancer just a few months later in September. I was thinking that she probably really liked Broadway musicals because we had the soundtrack of The King and I at home. And I remember her singing “Hello Young Lovers” around the house. I would give anything to have an hour with her… And I’d love to show her picture of her grandchildren and her great grandson too! I think she would have been a rockin’ granny and spoiled my kids and my brothers kids rotten as they were growing up! Oh great – now I’m all teared up – thanks George! 😉

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  16. Carol Ferenc

    George, what a loving tribute to your Dad. I’m sorry you lost him so early. He sounds like a wonderful person. You were busy with your own young family at the time but I’m sure he was watching you before he died, seeing what a good man you had become. And the love and respect you showed him every time you saw him ~ wonderful! Even if you felt rushed at times, he still knew you loved him very much. He knew.

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  17. Val Boyko

    Such a heartwarming post George. Thank you for opening up memory lane 💛
    As we age, we get to know ourselves more, and so I think its natural to want to know more about the people who are no longer with us, especially if we only knew them through the eyes of our younger selves.

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  18. DailyMusings

    The Mitch Albom book “For One More Day” came to mind when I read your post. It is so hard when those we love, especially a parent, dies and we have still so much to talk about and ask. After my mother in law died I longed for the answers to questions I had, to have those chats we had everyday that I missed so. That was 19 years ago, and as I have gotten older I have made sure to have the conversations now that I know what it is like not to have had them. I loved what you wrote about losing a parent ” it feels as if a part of your past has been removed.” I remember feeling that when my father died- how could it be? he had always been there. Great post George

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  19. joylovestravel

    Beautiful post George, one that really resonates with me right now. I lost my mum last summer so the sad days are still very much here. Your paragraph about how you hope your dad could know how much you miss him and how you admired him…. every word of that whole paragraph is everything I would want to say to her if I had the chance, I hope she knows…

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  20. Jennifer Kelland Perry

    That is such a young age to lose your dad, George. So sorry for your loss.
    I lost mine in 2003 when he was 69. It wasn’t sudden; he had ALS. I would love to have him back to talk to again. I think it is quite common to realize we didn’t get the chance to ask all the questions we wanted, because those questions become more prominent as we grow older ourselves.

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  21. Nurse Kelly

    Such a beautiful, reflective post, George. And I think you are a gentleman like your dad. Please take care of yourself due to your dad’s passing at such a young age. I’m sure you already do. Sorry you have so many unanswered questions – I hope somehow you find the answers. 🙂

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Kelly. I try to…:) I’m not sure the answers are coming since everyone is gone. My brother has done a lot of research into our family tree but it’s not as personal as sitting down with someone. That will have to wait for another time…:)

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  22. candidkay

    Odd as it may sound, I don’t feel I need this. When my parents first died, it was details of their lives I wished I knew. And yet, now I feel I know all I need to know. That’s a peaceful feeling:).

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  23. In My Cluttered Attic

    It would be my mom. She died a young woman in what appeared to be good health. I think I would have spent more time listening to her, instead of doing all the talking. But, she was a good listener and was always interested in what her four boys had to say.

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    1. George Post author

      It’s always hard to get a good listener to speak. My dad, like your mom was the same way. I’m sorry she died so young, Paul. That must have been difficult.

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  24. Kim Gorman

    This is a beautiful post, George. I loved reading every word of it. You’ve inspired me to visit a great Aunt who is the last one left on my father’s side. I regret not visiting my grandmother’s older sister who passed about two years ago because now I’ll never hear her perspective on growing up with my great grandparents and my grandma. I also wish I had talked more to my grandpa on my mom’s side. His parents died when he was a boy and he grew up in an orphanage. That’s about all I know.

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    1. George Post author

      It’s great that you still have someone left that you can speak with and satisfy some questions or curiosities you may have. I think our relatives are more inclined to speak openly as they get older for all the reasons we might imagine. I hopefully have a

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  25. kirizar

    Perhaps there is an upside to the omnipresent and eternal internet? Our children will be able to look back and see what we considered important and noteworthy. Then they will be disappointed that all we commented on was the fact that traffic sucked on a particular day or that we got cheated at a vending machine at work. I’d like to think blogging means I’m leaving something tangible and personal behind…but I suspect it will be about as filling as a Twinkie and even less satisfying. (Note to future researchers: I had to look up the spelling of Twinkie because I wasn’t sure that the singular wasn’t Twinky. End note.)

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    1. George Post author

      Lol…as long as your leaving Twinkie’s behind you are doing future generations a great service. Yes, blogging is leaving something tangible behind. It’s not handwritten letters but at least it’s something, right?

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  26. quirkywritingcorner

    Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    If I had a chance, I’d like to talk to my dad again. I’d like to hear his stories of the war and simply share some time with him. I was one of 6 kids. While my dad did a lot for us, I don’t remember spending any time talking to him. ~ Connie

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    1. George Post author

      It must have been difficult with six children to find the time. Parents who were in wars have always been reluctant to speak about their experiences.
      Thank you for commenting and for the reblogg Connie.

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