Saturday, March 8, 2014

Things We Might Have Said, Things We Might Have Done.

My husband and I are sitting on a plane on the way back from a much-needed respite vacation. The plane is a Boeing model, which, as usual, makes me think of Dad, and we took up a familiar conversation – how our married life might have been different if Dad had not had dementia. I’m sure I’ve written about this before – but the regret, and the subject, never truly goes away. What is the word for the sorrow of a missed opportunity?

We like to talk about whether my father and my husband would have gotten along. We discuss the activities my husband would have suggested he and my father do, like go to car shows or model railroad expositions, and talk about Corvairs and Corvettes. This time, my husband put forward that he would have enjoyed buying a classic car that needed renovating and asking my father to spend weekends with him helping him do it. I tell him my father could have taught him everything there is to know about cars and engines and that he really would have enjoyed that kind of project.

My husband has never known the man I knew; with the sly sense of humor, the innate mechanical genius, the measured manner, and also the self-denial, the inflexibility, the depression. I regret that he never will know that man. He knows him only through the stories I tell – the good and the bad, the positive and negative events of my life, the ways my father lifted me up and the many ways he let me down.  My father will never know the funny, talented, hugely-hearted man I know my husband to be, which also makes me so very sad.

I really can’t know whether my father would have liked my husband, but I’m pretty sure he would have. I think my first husband was intimidated by my father, and nervous around him. He was not at all mechanically-inclined and they really didn’t have much to talk about. I remember him mostly being nervous around my dad. My current, and hopefully last, husband would never have been intimidated, although he would have been respectful, and I think he could have been very good at bringing my dad out of his reclusive shell. I wasn’t able to spend much time with my dad when I was first married because I was dealing with my anger and grief about some of his actions. It took his dementia to, oddly, bring us back together.

 Maybe we would have become something of a family – my husband, my father, and I - I like to think that it would have been possible. I’m pretty sure my husband would have made a special effort to get us all together. I confess I’m very curious what my mother-in-law and my father would have made of each other! There is also the possibility that my husband and I may never have met, had my life not gone exactly as it has. I guess we are never really given to know these kinds of things.

There is only what is – sitting next to my dad in his recliner, telling him about our life events and our classic car and what we have been up to that day while he watches us gravely. I have no idea how much he comprehends, but I hope he is soothed, and, perhaps, somewhat entertained by my husband’s turn of phrase and expressive face. There is only now, and what is happening now, and everything else is just things we might have said, things we might have done.


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