Monday, 2 June 2014

Regrets

There are many types of regret that we deal with. Either those we encounter that are of no real significance and soon fade within hours, i.e. ordering something on a menu you opted for instead of your usual favourite dish only to discover it fails to impress.

Or that other kind of regret that stays with you for the remainder of your life.

It's a sliding scale, of that there is no doubt. And for some people regret doesn't factor at all. Good for them. I had always tried to maintain living a life without regrets. But that was back when I was younger, naive and less experienced with the world within which I moved.

Today, as I look back over my life after recently turning a half-century, I realise I've 'acquired' a small collection of regrets. Some could have been avoided, but due to the lack of information at the time happened regardless. A couple should never have happened at all. Some are based on instinctive reactions at the moment of decision, and some based on poorly judged calls. Then there are those which cannot be avoided and are 100% out of your control - these are the ones that you carry day-in-day-out. The rest you can shrug off and assign them to the back room of your mind.


If I could go back in time and do things differently, would I? Hell, yes. Eliminate some of those horrendous decisions, avoid certain people, jump at the opportunities presented to me that I ignored, but most of all, spend more quality time with those I dearly loved and have lost.

Three points in my life stand out the most and tend to draw me in when I reflect and look back over my life. If you will indulge me I'd like to share those with you now. I will list them chronologically along with music videos of the particular years I am mentioning.


1) Back when I was 17 life couldn't have been better. The 80s were full of new inventions, music, world events, brilliant films and eclectic fashion. Also a time of high unemployment, but at that age, it didn't even factor into my life. I was full of enthusiasm, potential and love for life, plus I had all my friends around me. The world was an open playground with an amazing soundtrack.
My regret? If only I could have fully appreciated those moments and certain people, and made specific decisions at critical junctures. Who knows, maybe Alun, a good friend of mine might still be alive today?


~

2) And then there was Libby, my first family dog, put to sleep for snapping at my nephew when he was a toddler. She didn't deserve that at all. No one would help, or offer an alternative home, so I made it my responsibility to take her to the vets - I was damned if my bastard of a brother-in-law at the time (who insisted she be put down, seeing as we were living in 'his' house), would be the last person Libby would see.

I went, with Sarah, my girlfriend at that time, to the vets. It was an old Victorian terraced house with white washed sand stone and dark, natural quarried brick, with all external woodwork painted black.
I'll never forget her face; ears back and body shivering as the vet's nurse carried her upstairs (she was a small, Jack Russell-sized dog but with the colour and markings of a Labrador). As the vet handed me her collar and lead he smiled sympathetically and said, "She'll be fine, she won't feel a thing."

We left and went straight to my aunt and uncle's flat across the road. I hugged my aunt and cried like a baby.
I still have Libby's collar, lead and squeaky toy today. Her dog tag is on my keyring.
I also have a deep-rooted hatred for my ex-brother-in-law, who is now a fat, sad, alcoholic.
What goes around...

~

3) At 21 I hitch-hiked to France. Got all the way to Aix in the truck of a British trucker named  Dave - what a great guy he was. He insisted on taking me as far as Aix. When I told him of my reason for going south Dave tried changing my mind by offering to take me all round Europe with him and then back to Britain once all his drops were done. You see, I was going to Marseille in order to join the French Foreign Legion - the fort there was one of many recruitment centres throughout France.
I turned down his generous offer, even after he told me of his friend who was in the Legion but now on the run after deserting.

I bid Dave farewell at Aix and secured a lift to a local Gendarme station, where I told them, in my basic French, that I wanted to go to the Foreign Legion. I had two Gendarmes, both dressed in black uniform, wearing huge black leather coats and sidearms, place me in the back of one of their Police vans as if I were a criminal. It had barred windows and basic bench seating - it was an arrangement they had with the Legion - to escort any and all potential recruits who turn up and ask for the nearest Legion recruitment centre. They drove me to the fort within the port of Marseille.

Once there I was stripped of all personal belongings, had my passport taken along with my camera (from which they removed the film) and put into a dorm with half-a-dozen guys of mixed nationalities. One of whom was a French lad. He reminded me a bit of a young Marlon Brando, and thought highly of himself. Arrogant and aloof, I recall how he moved two chairs into a position to watch the television (which was placed on a high steel framed table so all could see). Now, important to this part is the fact that a Caporal (Corporal) would periodically check in on us.

The door to our dorm opened a fraction, but hit the back of this French guy's chair. This happened several times in quick succession before the door finally burst open and the Caporal stormed into the room, shouting, and hit the French guy across the head sending him sprawling to the floor. I thought, 'Shit, this is it, here we go!' Thankfully the rest of us were safe from the Caporal's wrath. It was then lights out.

The following day we had breakfast in what could only be described as a 'dungeon setting'. Mine consisted of a pint of black coffee with six sugars and half a French loaf with butter and jam. After that we were given tasks to do whilst awaiting for our turn to be called into the Commander's office to sign the papers.
It was a gut instinct thing for me as I sat facing the Commander, a man with a cigarette hanging from one corner of his mouth, smoke drifting up into his eye causing him to squint. I swear he would have looked equally at home wearing an SS Officer's uniform. Behind him stood a Legionnaire whose main purpose seemed to be to stare at me, whilst two others went through all my clothes and belongings from my bag as if it were some sort of impromptu free-for-all.

I refused to sign the papers, instinct screaming at me not to do it. So I didn't.

Five years later I looked back over my life and nothing had changed. So I often wonder, with regret, as to where I'd be, and more importantly, who I'd be, if I had signed for the five years and served within the French Foreign Legion?


~

4) The death of my father. This occurred in the summer of 1992, July, to be precise. I was in Pennsylvania working as a Ropes Course (Assault Course in the UK) Instructor for Camp America, along with my wife, (then my girlfriend at the time) who had also been hired in the role of camp nurse.
July 4th celebrations had taken place and everyone was having a great time of it, including myself. I called home a bunk (cabin) with three other guys, and 17 fifteen year old boys. We had a riot, and not always the good variety, nevertheless we all got on great.
On the morning of the 5th July a tannoy announcement asked that I report to the main office immediately. Upon arrival I was given a phone number to call. Puzzled I dialed the number which turned out to be incorrect. So, looking at the number again I realised it was most likely my sister's phone number with a single incorrect digit. I was right.

Sue answered the phone, I said 'Hi, what's up?' with a smile in my voice.
She replied, 'Dad's died...' If she had said anything else, to this day I don't know, as I had put down the phone and sank to the floor crying.

Everyone on camp were fantastic. They arranged a flight home that day, and by midday I was in the air flying home to the UK. I stayed for the week after seeing my dad in his coffin and attending the funeral. I did fly back out to camp and finished my contract. Not going back wouldn't bring my father back to me, and my girlfriend was still out there and so many of the lads were expecting me to return.

The last living memory of my father was the day I left for America. I had my bags packed and chatting with them in their flat. Dad was sat in his chair, not looking too well, but I couldn't have foreseen what the future had in store at that moment in time. He was also suffering with other health related issues, but seemed to be coping well.
He pressed an envelope into my hand, and upon it, in his spidery writing were the words, 'Have a good time.' - inside he'd placed some money. That was the last time I saw him alive. I learned later from my brother, following my father's death, that the day before he died my father was asking for me.

That is my ultimate regret, not being there for him when he needed me and to have told him that I loved him.
This last song is dedicated to my father, William John Kelly, always loved, never forgotten.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for stopping by, Pierce. I appreciate you taking time out to have a read. Hope you are well and life is being good to you ;o)

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  2. I had to have my cat put down 2 years ago and it was hard. Had him for almost 13 years. He died in my arms and I still get emotional when I think about him. As for my Dad, he lives across the ocean and each year he gets a little older and more frail. I worry the day will come when he passes on and i'll be miles away. It's a gut wrenching feeling. He likes to send us care packages and for the last year or so he's been putting personal items in the boxes like old photographs, albums, documents, things that he wants me to hold onto after he's gone. At least the kids and I get to see him every Sunday thanks to skype, but it's never enough, is it.

    Sorry for your loss Mark.

    The question often comes up "If you could go back, would you change anything," and my answer is always yes and no. I would definitely want to change a lot of things in my past, but not if it meant never having my kids. My kids are worth all the crap I went through, and more.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Elise for such a lovely reply. Sometimes Skype can be such a wonderful thing.

      I had posted a more in-depth reply via my iMac to test it out, but mysteriously my reply vanished into the ether and didn't publish?

      As for the 'yes or no' aspect of would I change anything if I could go back, I have to side with you on that one and agree: there are somethings I would change and some I wouldn't - man, this fence is mighty uncomfortable!

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