I have many wishes and regrets. Maybe more than most. Or maybe I just ruminate on them more. I wish I could be more like Doug and have almost none. He automatically deleted mistakes and regrets from his memory banks.
Thank goodness there are many things that I do NOT regret at all. I am going to try to focus more on these.
Maybe some things on this list will make others think about what to focus on in their own relationships, while they still have the time. I think some of these things were the reasons behind our happy marriage (but the main reason was Doug.)
- Marrying Doug. It took me 8 years to get up the courage to do this, after making a heartbreaking mistake the first time around. I did and do still regret how long it took me to realize that Doug was exactly what I wanted and needed. However, I'm glad I was SURE before we got married. He needed that security. I had broken off a lot of relationships because I was so damaged up by the past. Doug patiently endured this. He waited and waited and waited. I think we both grew up and evolved during that waiting period. It made us and our marriage better. With Doug, I never had a minute of doubt once I made the commitment. He knew that.
- That we loved each other so much. This would be WAY easier for me if that weren't the case. But that would be a different kind of sad.
- The time we spent together. Of course there was never enough. I don't regret a single minute that we did have. We had so much fun together. Some of it was just lounging around reading the newspaper or building a puzzle. There were walks after work. Weekend hikes. Big camping adventures. They left me with wonderful memories.
- The time we spent apart. This may seem contrary, but it made us more complete people to have other interests. Time apart made me appreciate him more. We made many friends through our activities. If I hadn't done this, I would be even more screwed now.
- Encouraging him to spend time with friends. (See above.) I'll admit I wanted to be with Doug all the time. But he loved to hike and climb mountains, rock and ice. We hiked together but I couldn't (or didn't want to) do some of the really difficult and challenging stuff. When he went off with his buddies to climb, he always came back exhausted, but happy and recharged and full of stories. I loved hearing the blow by blows and seeing the photos of his exploits. His high school buddies Stu, Ronnie and Freddie were impressed that I would encourage him to go on an annual golfing trip with them, even though it was usually on our anniversary weekend. He always made it up to me in spades. He frequently came home with flowers. He always set aside special time for the two of us to do something together (see a date a week :-)
- A date a week. This was Doug's idea. Sometimes it was a trip to the landfill to check out bluebird boxes together. Sometimes it was dinner at a fancy restaurant (see photo of us above at Caveys). Or a little out of the way museum. Lots of variety. Lots of fun.
- Making fun a priority. This was a value we shared. We wanted balance in our life. We worked hard to be able to enjoy life more.
- Going part-time for work. I left my job at Amarillo to take a job in Long Island to be closer to Doug. My management was not happy. I knew what I wanted. Turns out my company lost the contract a couple of weeks after I made my decision, so I would have been out of work anyway. Then, after 2.5 years, I left my job at Brookhaven National Laboratory to spend more time with my husband. I had been commuting to Long Island - leaving first thing every Monday morning and coming home Friday night. I was missing him too much, and things we could have been doing together. I was making a lot of money. It was rewarding and challenging. But it was also very stressful. That impacted our time together. After I went part-time, I was much more relaxed. Being away so much also put an added burden on him, as he had to do everything himself. (Like I have to do now. Sigh.)
- Doing things that pleased him. This includes "rewards," and some acts that were actually selfless (common for him, rare for me.) Like drawing him a bubble bath and scrubbing him down after a long hard day of work or play. Little things like wearing clothes he liked, or not getting a perm (he hated the smell.) He didn't ask for much.
- That I let him make me do things I initially didn't want to do. Half the time it was actually a good idea. He dragged me away from the computer a lot to check out the weather or something interesting happening outside or in the 'hood. He forced me to go for a walk or a hike when I was feeling lazy. Then there were all those Desperate Day Hikes and scooter rides.
- That he knew how much I loved him. That I didn't take him for granted. More.
- That nothing was left unsaid.
- That I told him he was my hero. He knew all the things I appreciated about him. More.
- Being a fan. I went to every single race and baseball game, unless I was out of town or really really sick (like with pneumonia.). He would thank me for going. I went because it was fun and I wanted to. I was so proud of him.
- Spending time with his family. His family is one of the reasons I married him. They are wonderful, fun, loving people. They wanted to spend time with him too - holidays, dinner, or just hanging out. Now they can treasure that time together.
- The photos and videos I took. Doug was very patient about this. I have gazillions of pictures of him and things we did together. Many are hilarious. It is hard (sometimes I can't bear it, knowing I will never see him again, and there will be no more pictures). But other times it is great to look at them. I have a few videos too. It is wonderful to see him alive and be able to hear his voice. See some of my favorite photos and videos.
- The gifts I gave him. He didn't want much. I tried to get him things he would enjoy, or things that might make his life easier. In the future, I plan to make a donation to an organization he believed in on birthdays and holidays. He was the kind of guy who loved to celebrate life.
- I would consult with Bob for recommendations on climbing gear he might need or use, as I didn't know a crampon from a carabiner.
- His friends were jealous that I gave him a backhoe for his 40th birthday. I figured every man needs a hoe! At the end of the day, when he was worn out from raking or shoveling, he could play on his backhoe. Of course my motives were somewhat selfish - I knew it would help him get things done around the house and yard.
- When I was working full time, I paid to have a roof put on the leaking house, and paint on the peeling house. He could have done either of these jobs, but it would have been boring and used up way too much time.
- When we first got married, I paid off the mortgage with some money I had made from investments. He gave me a lovely pair of diamond earrings for my birthday right afterwards - he said I deserved them and it cost the same as a mortgage payment.
- That I helped him with some things. Never enough, but I did lend a hand at times. I tried to take care of some things around the house, like cooking, laundry, bills, mowing (I got the riding mower), feeding the goats and ducks and cat, etc. I also tried to lighten his load by hiring others to help with some things at our rental properties.
- That I didn't push him to go for a promotion to management at work. Doug was well respected at DEP. He was really good at what he did, and loved it. I always thought he would make a great Assistant Director. In recent years, there were several openings he was totally qualified for. It would have meant more financial security, which is something I always worry about. But he didn't want to do it. He knew it would be full of headaches, stress (he had enough already). It would take him away from home more. I just made sure he thought it through first. Then I fully supported his decision.
- That I told him what I wanted. I didn't make him guess, or punish him for not figuring it out. Of course, sometimes he complained about me telling him too often and too much about what I wanted. I reminded him that it was a gift I was giving him :-).
- The parties. I am not a party person, or much of a socializer. Doug was a party animal. He loved the 50th birthday party gathering. We went to many (but not enough) events together. See Rope Man example.
- Encouraging and pestering him to take better care of himself. I sure am glad I forced him to see the doctor after the fainting incident. I don't think I could have lived with myself if we hadn't checked that out, even though, in retrospect, the diagnosis was probably wrong. I set up his hypertension and cholesterol medication and vitamins so he wouldn't forget them. I encouraged him to get rest, and stay hydrated. To eat healthy and drink less (to no avail). Not to fling himself on the ground (also to no avail.) Not to run alone after the fainting incident. To take safety seriously, and wear hearing and eye protection and watch out on ladders and lifting. I gave him a Road ID that enabled the hospital to contact me quickly.
- That I lost weight in our last year together. I've struggled with chunking out since I was 12 years old. My weight has gone up and down about 60 lbs. over the years. I finally got it under control, in part because I wanted to look better for Doug (since he was so hunky). I wanted him to be proud of me (he already was.) In part so I would be able to do more with him (hiking, etc. We were dreaming of a trek in New Zealand.) In part because I wanted to live longer with him. In part because other than that, my life was perfect.
- That it didn't happen at home or while climbing. If Doug's heart had stopped anywhere else, he would not have had trained medical professionals with advanced equipment by his side within minutes. I would have been filled with fears that more could have been done. Because of where it happened, that is not a concern that I have to live with. More.
- That his passing was quick and painless. The fact that it was totally unexpected makes it harder to understand and accept. At least I know he didn't suffer. Some would call this a "good death." They would wish it for themselves and those they love.
- He will be forever young for us. He didn't have to grow old and lose his ability to do the things he loved. He didn't have to experience pain. He was not a good sick person. If he had a cold you would think it was a terminal illness. He didn't have time to become angry or bitter about those losses, or to feel like he was a burden to others. I would not have been a good nurse, and don't have to live with that guilt either. Even though I wanted to grow old with him, now he will be forever young for us.
- The insights and compassion coming from dealing with such a loss. Hopefully I will grow, and become a better person because of this.