Why don't you wish in one hand, and shit in the other.
See which one fills up first.
- Willie (Bad Santa)
I suppose it is natural to be filled with regrets and wishes after a tragic, unexpected event. Just like my fears and worries, I know that some of the things I am feeling are unfounded or unreasonable.
I know no one is perfect (even my 8 year old neighbor Riley knows that.) I know that I am not magically all powerful in terms of having been able to prevent what happened.
I hope I can eventually forgive myself for the many things I did do wrong that I could have controlled. Ialso hope that others will learn from my mistakes.
I recognize that dwelling on these wishes and regrets can slow down healing. I'm writing them down because I'm trying to get some of it out of my head - it's eating me up. I'm trying to sort through these thoughts and move beyond the irrational ones. At some point I will work on a list of the good things I did for Doug, although it will never be as long as the list of what he did for me.
I do know that this list could be worse. At least Doug knew how much I loved him, and that he was my hero. Nothing was left unsaid between us.
Here's what I wish:
- That this was all just a bad dream. That Doug was still alive.
- That Doug could see the outpouring of admiration and love from others. He would be so impressed with himself.
Fortunately Doug DID know how most other people (including family, friends and colleagues) felt about him. Not that he depended on that for sense of self-worth. He knew what he did well. He ignored or forgot about what he did not do well.
- That I had never spoken a harsh word to him. You might say that is not realistic. However, in the 27 years I knew him, Doug rarely, if ever, spoke a harsh word to me or anybody else.
I on the other hand, am a very critical person. It serves me well when I am evaluating things from a scientific standpoint, or conducting an environmental audit. It did not serve Doug well. Plus it was pretty much a total waste of time. It did little or nothing to change his ways. I should have just let it all go. I did try, but not hard enough.
- That I had been more patient with him. The things he did that annoyed me were so inconconsequential. But some things he did drove me crazy. The first time he did something annoying, I tried to ignore it. Also the second or third time. The thousandth time, I snapped. He never understood why. He disliked criticism and confrontation. I shared my frustations with him because I didn't want to go into a passive aggressive mode. Maybe he was afraid I was going to leave him, like his first girlfriend did. I told him I never would. I wanted to improve our relationship even more
- That I had paid more attention to Doug's well-being, and how he was feeling. That I had pushed harder for answers. Yes, I pestered him about his health and made him go to the doctor. I even went along with him most of the time. I was afraid he would not be forthcoming about what was going on. That he would forget to tell the doctor relevant information. That he would not ask questions. That he wouldn't take it seriously enough.
I also wanted to hear the doctor's recommendations so I could reinforce them. Classic example:
Dr. M: "Doug, have no more than one beer a day. Cut back on salt and caffeine. Eat breakfast every day. Stay hydrated - alcohol doesn't count. Regularly monitor your blood pressure. Listen to your wife."
Bet (on the way home in the car, trying to assess retention) "So Doug, what did the doctor tell you to do?"
Doug: "Have one beer a day."
- That I had worked harder on him to reduce salt intake, ensure he was hydrated, and drank less beer. That I had snuck decaf into his coffee. That I had made fewer meals involving processed food, which I did because we were both so busy. I did try. Doug was an adult. I will always wonder whether it MIGHT have helped if had made more changes in this area.
- That I had done more research on Benicar and the symptoms Doug was experiencing. That I had paid more attention. The crushing fatigue thatI assumed was associated with a stressful job and intense physical activity. The shortness of breath that started right after he went on Benicar. That I had gotten copies of the EKG and stress test results. That I had done more research on stress tests. That I had realized Doug was not given an echocardiogram. That I had demanded one. (We still don't know whether it would have shown anything.) That I had asked for a second opinion when the problems continued unabated.
- That I had agreed with Doug that he should go off of the Benicar. Again, we don't know whether or not this would have helped. But when he ran the Memorial Day 10K on May 31, he did not take the Benicar. He confessed this to me, and said he felt great. He told me he wanted to stop taking it. I was concerned that sudden cessation might cause a dangerous spike in his blood pressure. I asked him to wait till he saw Dr. M on June 7 (the day before he collapsed.)
- That I had been easier to please. I was very demanding. Doug would thank me if I opened a can of Dinty Moore stew for him. He was happy if the windows in This Old House opened and if the sun came up. He was so easy to be with and live with.
- That I had not bought 5 rental properties. It was part of my long term investment strategy to enable us to retire early. I did a lot of the work myself, or with Doug's dad. But it weighed heavily on Doug. Occasionally he did have to take a significant chunk of time out from his busy schedule to fix things at the rentals.. This was often right after a long stressful day at work. He did not enjoy it. He really wanted to work on This Old House. I constantly reminded him that no one paid us to live in OUR house.
- That I had been able to make a commitment earlier and moved back to CT sooner. I made him wait eight years. There were a whole bunch of reasons for this, and it is what it is. But I still regret that lost time when we could have been together.
- That we had taken more time to have fun. Yes, Doug had a well-lived, full life. He probably did more in his 52 years than some people do in a much longer lifetime. We both made fun a priority. But we also spent a lot of time working.
- That I had lightened his load more. This one really bothers me. He was tired after work. He did so much around the house. Some of it I could have done or helped more with - like emptying out the duck pond, washing dishes regularly, or watering the hanging plants. That would have given him more free time.
- That I had gotten into shape earlier. Doug never commented on my excess weight - EVER. However, he was pretty happy when I slimmed down. (Read more.)
- That I had gotten up every morning with him. Now I wake up every morning at 5 a.m. Before, I usually slept in. He never failed to come upstairs to wake me up to kiss me goodbye. If I had hauled my lazy ass out of bed, we could have been extra time together. Although he was sort of curmudgeonly in the morning.
- That in later life, he had gotten to spend more time with his brother Glen, his sister Julie, his cousins and school friends. I sort of hogged him to myself. I had waited so long for such happiness. I couldn't get enough of it. Fortunately we did spend a fair amount of time with his parents.
- I was not a big fan of parties - I am more of a one-on-one type. Doug loved parties. If we hosted them, it was so much work (of course he did more than half of the work himself.)
- That he and I had spent even more time together. I commuted to Long Island for the 2.5 years of our marriage, leaving Monday morning and returning Friday night. After I "semi-retired," I ended up travelling a lot for work. Last year I was away for almost 4 months. Plus I was always volunteering, working on the computer, or involved with the rentals. Every minute that took me away from Doug is lost forever.
- That we had spent more time camping and hiking. We did it a lot, but never enough. We had so much fun and both loved the outdoors so much. It was relaxing and healthy and interesting and fun fun fun. It was almost the only time when I was totally in the present.
- That I was in better control right now. I am a mess, sometimes sinking in sadness or being short-tempered.
- That I had 40 more years with him. Even though he sometimes drove me crazy (see above), I never got sick of him. I was never happier than I was with him. Our shared life was wonderful.
- That I could talk to him now. I used to save up everything interesting or funny or complainey from the day to tell him when he got home. He was the person I shared almost everything with. Now, more than ever, I need to talk with him about what is going wrong. But what is going wrong is that he is not here.
- That I had done a different kind of financial planning for this contingency, so I wouldn't have to worry about finances on top of everything else. Like more life insurance or mortgage insurance. However, this is the least of all my wishes and regrets. Doug made my life so much easier in the years we were together by enabling (and encouraging) me to work part-time and by being Benefits Boy.
- That people will learn from my mistakes and what happened from Doug, and change their lives and their relationships for the better.
- That no one will ever forget Doug.
There is no good in arguing with the inevitable. The only argument available with an east wind is to put on your overcoat.
- James Russell Lowell