Regrets, I’ve Had a Few

I like to say that I have no regrets in life, because I’m happy with my life right now, and I never would have got to this point without all those twists and turns along the way. But of course that can never be absolutely true, for anyone, because there’s always little moments when you weren’t at your best. Times you said mean things you can’t take back, times you let a friend down. Times you acted like a self-centred child and should have known better, times you yelled at your kids for the smallest of infractions. I’d go back and change a few little things, if I could, if I knew it wouldn’t be a butterfly flapping its wings and changing my entire future.

This morning in the kitchen I was thinking, yet again, of one small thing from 20 years ago that I continue to regret, and regret often. Sir Monkeypants and I were newlyweds – I think we’d literally been married only a month or two – when some relatives of his came to visit us from England. They were technically his cousins, but the parents were much older than us and had two teenage daughters. They came to stay for a few days, sightseeing in the capital, and they were incredibly lovely people and I continue to think of them with great fondness even though we haven’t seen them since. (And…just realized those daughters are probably married with children themselves, and OH MY WORD.)

Anyway, the mother from this family had an injury to her right hand – her thumb and a couple of fingers were deformed due to a bad burn she had received as a child. As a result, it was sometimes hard for her to find good kitchen tools that worked with her hand. We had one knife – a Wiltshire Staysharp knife in a little white case – that fit her hand perfectly. This particular knife had been a gift to me from Sir Monkeypants, on Valentine’s Day a year or two before.

The mom liked the knife so much that she went out and tried to buy one just like it, but when she got home she found the design of the handle had been subtly changed, and it didn’t work with her hand as well. I felt genuinely sad that it didn’t work out better and we moved on, saying goodbye a day or so later.

Then, literally YEARS later – probably close to a decade later – it came to me one morning out of the blue that I should have offered her my own knife. Sure, it was a gift, but part of the awesomeness of the gift was not the knife itself, but being able to joke that while other girlfriends were getting flowers and chocolate, I was getting kitchen gadgets from my super-practical boyfriend, and that was fab. And sure, it was a very nice knife, but they had just bought one almost exactly the same and we could have swapped them and no one would have been the wiser.

It was so obvious. And yet, at the time, I just didn’t see it.

By then, so much time had passed that I fretted and fretted about what to do about it. I worried they thought I was an idiot, or maybe just a mean person. Mostly I just wanted her to have the knife. It was meant for her! She should have it! And I really, really like her! I want her to have it!

But in the end it just felt too weird to send it. Too much time had passed and I didn’t know if she even remembered the whole thing and ugh, it was just too much social strain. So I did nothing.

But a few times a year, it just pops into my head when I least expect it: I should have given her that knife. And every time I think about it, I get this close to bundling it up and sending it to her, even though we haven’t spoken now in almost 20 years. But it’s become almost painful to use it myself, due to the guilt; it mostly sits in a drawer unless one of the kids gets it out for some reason.

I know, I should get over it. Or just send it to her, weird or not. Or, just sit on my regrets and own them. That’s how it goes, I guess.

11 thoughts on “Regrets, I’ve Had a Few

  1. It’s amazing how “stuff” – which we like to say isn’t important – can still be so important, isn’t it? We used to have potluck street parties every year and, somehow, it became felt that I was the organizer, and so all things should fall to me, and therefore all unclaimed dishes, etc. got left on my front porch at the end of the night.

    One year most had labels, and went back to their owners quickly. I can’t remember the details, but I seem to think one dish didn’t, but I still knew it belonged to an older woman who lived down the street with her daughter and daughter’s family.

    For some reason I just procrastinated about getting it back to her. It sat somewhere in our house and I used to think “Oh, I should just run that down the street,” but – weirdly – it always seemed too far in the moment, and I didn’t … and then she died!

    And then I was really stuck. Because I didn’t feel like I could just dispose of a dead woman’s property, but I also felt really weird about returning it to her daughter. And I actually used to think about “what if it was a really important dish to her?” etc.

    In the end, I returned it to the daughter (babbling and blushing and apologizing) and I felt like she gave me the stink eye, but maybe she was just bewildered because maybe it was just a nothing dish from Wal-Mart and should couldn’t figure out what the fuss was …

    Who knows? But whenever I see the woman’s daughter I think of that, and always will, until one of us moves off the street.

    1. I know exactly how you feel! The weird awkwardness. I’m so glad I’m not the only one with strange stuff-associated guilt.

  2. does this have anything to do with the knife found on OJ’s property or it is just coincidence of timing, Lynn? are you the “real” killer?

    but seriously, I have several “D-OH” moments like this. I think if you are generally a kind, considerate person, these moments bother you more than they might others (a.k.a. “men”) lol!!

  3. Zhu

    It’s funny because I was reading the story and it did come to mind that maybe offering yours to her was the easier and best way to deal with the situation… but at the same time, I can perfectly picture myself just not thinking about this option. It’s not a matter of being selfish or anything, it’s just that sometime, the obvious just isn’t obvious! I have similar D-OH moments 😉

    Gosh, I can remember awkward faux pas I made even though I didn’t want to be offensive and I wasn’t even aware I was making the faux pas…

  4. I’m not sure I agree. Had you tried to give her your own knife, that might have been awkward, and she would have probably refused it. So maybe you just saved an awkward moment.

  5. I enjoyed this piece. I’ve certainly had that experience where suddenly years later it is entirely clear what I should have done in a particular situation. The subconscious at work maybe.

  6. mdavis94538

    This is, like, the story of my life. Not at the scale of your post, where a different decision would really have made a difference in someone’s life, but still – the frequency with which I have an interaction with someone where I think later that I should have said or done something else is… I don’t know, I’m sure it happens at least once a month if not more. Sigh, interacting with other humans is definitely not my strong suit.

    1. Well, if it’s any consolation, I always enjoy interacting with you :). I think this happens to a lot of people – immediate regret about human interactions – but some of us (like me!) are blessed with the ability to forget it and move on. I only have a handful of rough spots that I really rub over and over again, like this knife thing. Lucky, I guess.

      1. mdavis94538

        Oh, well, good friends are different – people who “get” me. It’s the colleagues, co-workers, parents of my kids’ friends – people I know casually. There’s a sort of expected norm of social interaction that for some people is (seemingly) effortless and for me it’s endlessly awkward. I’m mostly OK with that, but it’s the kind of thing I would absolutely work on if I knew I was going to live for a thousand years instead of just a few more decades (because I’m quite confident I could figure it out if I just had time to spend on it, but the cost-benefit equation doesn’t work out for my current life expectancy).

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