I decided to write about regret today because it’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. I think that most people live with some form of regret. Whether it’s regretting something that we did or said, or something that we didn’t do or say, regret is something that we all live with. I think the saying “live life with no regrets” is a bunch of bullshit. Try as you might, but no one is perfect and, therefore, everyone is going to regret something at some point in his/her life. It is impossible to go through your whole entire life without regretting anything. Anyone who says that they don’t have any regrets is probably either high on drugs or they’re lying. I mean, who the fuck do they think they’re fooling anyway? Like, honestly? No one’s life is all rainbows and sunshine and butterflies all the time. It’s ok to have regrets. You’re not always going to say or do the right thing. You’re not always going to handle shit the way you should handle it. You’re going to get mad at people, maybe even scream and yell at them. You’re going to lose your temper and snap at people who don’t deserve it. You’re not going to be there for everyone when you should. You’re going to lose people before you have the chance to tell them what they really mean to you. Everyone regrets things. Just be real about it. I’m about to keep it real myself.
Do I have any regrets? Hell yeah I do. I regret quitting volleyball and softball during my eighth grade year. I regret my first choice in high schools and maybe even my second. I regret some of the friends I’ve chosen and most of the guys I’ve dated. I regret being an intolerable, raging bitch of a teenager in high school. I regret feeling like I always had to act hard and prove that I was tough. I regret trying to be someone that I was so clearly not. I regret many of my fashion choices and some of my hairstyles. I regret screaming at my Mom, “I hate you,” during my high school years. I even cringe now when I think about it. I regret being too cool to hang out with my family at times during high school and college. I regret spending most of my time with my friends, some of whom I would come to realize didn’t deserve my time. I regret staying at a job that made me absolutely miserable for over five years. And, I also regret not going back to school right away once I finally left that job. I regret not ending certain friendships sooner than I did. I regret wasting any amount of time thinking, worrying, and stressing about things that just simply did not matter. I sometimes, but not often, regret eating that third piece of pizza. Most of these regrets are not that big of a deal. They aren’t things that I think about very often. They aren’t stopping me from being happy or living my life. They are just things that most girls go through while they are growing up. Lessons learned. I was much younger and dumber back then. I know better now. However, there are certain regrets that are always on my mind. These regrets have to do with my Mom’s Alzheimer’s.
I recently started reading “Still Alice.” It will probably be Christmas by the time I finish reading it because I’m the slowest reader in the whole entire world, but I’m reading it. Anyway, in the book, Alice’s daughter, Lydia, asks her all sorts of questions about her Alzheimer’s. Lydia asks her what it feels like to have Alzheimer’s and whether or not she knows what’s happening to her. She asks Alice about her symptoms and whether or not she knows when she’s experiencing them. She asks Alice if she’s afraid of the future and of who she will become. My Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years ago this month. Granted, I don’t remember every single detail from that time in our lives, but I know that I did not ask my Mom any of those questions. Not a single one. How could I not have even asked her how she felt about it? What did it feel like? Was she scared? I don’t remember asking her a fucking thing about it. I was too wrapped up in my own feelings about it to ask her about hers. How selfish is that? I may have mentioned before that Steve and I got engaged during the same month in which my Mom was diagnosed. I know I was excited about getting married and planning our wedding. I know we started house hunting shortly after we got engaged. I know that I was busy working. But, what I remember most is throwing the world’s biggest ever pity party for myself. I felt so sorry for myself that I was only 25-years-old and that my Mom had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I felt so sorry for myself that she wouldn’t really be able to participate in much of the planning and the wedding itself. I tried to include her in things, but sometimes it was just too much. I was overwhelmed and I felt that having her there made everything that much more difficult. I was such an asshole! I never once stopped to think about how everything was affecting her and her life. It was all me, me, me, and my wedding, my wedding, my wedding. I never looked at it like it was her daughter’s wedding. She wasn’t able to help plan her daughter’s wedding. She wasn’t able to understand and participate in her own daughter’s wedding. I never asked her how she felt about any of it. This was happening to HER, not to ME. And, I never asked her a goddamn thing. Now it’s too late. I think I will regret that for the rest of my life.
During the first few years after my Mom’s diagnosis, I was working full time as a police officer. I honestly hated my job and my brutal hours. Even though I had three days off a week, I always spent those days catching up on things that I didn’t get a chance to do while I was working. I don’t think I hardly ever went to see my Mom. I remember going weeks without seeing her and many days without even calling her. I’m not sure if it was just because I was so busy or if I was actively trying to avoid seeing her and having to deal with her illness. Maybe both. Either way, it kills me to think about that now. My Mom was in her early 60’s and she had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My Dad was working full time so he was gone for most of the day. Therefore, my Mom sat inside her house alone, day in and day out. She was no longer allowed to drive so she couldn’t go anywhere even if she wanted to. Not even to the grocery store. She just sat there alone all day, every day, while my Dad was at work.
The book “Still Alice” does an excellent job of depicting the loneliness and confusion of living with Alzheimer’s. It’s much better than the movie, in my opinion. In the book, you’re able to read Alice’s thoughts throughout her lonely days at home, while her husband is at work. Mornings turn into afternoons, which turn into evenings, and then into nights. There is no concept of time or time of day. Alice starts to do something, but then she forgets what she was doing, so things are left undone all over the house. A cold cup of tea sits in the microwave. The timer continues to go off throughout the day, in an attempt to remind Alice of her tea. But, Alice can’t figure out where the beeping sound is coming from. She thinks it’s her email, her cell phone, the house phone, or the doorbell. She thinks the black rug by the front door is a huge, gaping hole in the floor and she’s afraid to go near it. She is utterly lost, scared, and confused in her own home. It kills me to think that this is how my Mom spent her days at home. It absolutely fucking kills me inside. I have no idea what went on during those long, lonely days. Maybe nothing at all. But maybe, she was just as lost, scared, and confused as Alice. I will never know because I was never there. Not only did I not bother to ask my Mom about her illness and how it was affecting her, but I didn’t bother to go see her. The reasons don’t matter. I should have made time and I didn’t. I sincerely and whole-heartedly regret not being there for my Mom enough in the beginning.
My final big regret is that we didn’t take a vacation with my Mom after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. At that time, she would have been capable of enjoying a trip with her family somewhere. My Mom has a long list of places that she would love to visit, but we all know that she will never get to see any of them. I wish that we would have planned a family trip somewhere shortly after she was diagnosed. But, as my husband always says, “Wish in one hand, shit in the other, and see which one fills up faster.” I know that it’s too late now. My Mom has too much trouble getting around to be able to go on a real vacation. If we had gone shortly after she was diagnosed, she would have been able to get around just fine. She would have enjoyed it and she would have loved spending time with her family. We could have taken many pictures and made many memories. Even though she would one day forget all about it, we never would. I belong to a Facebook support group for Alzheimer’s caregivers and family members. Recently, a woman posted that her husband had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and that she had no idea what to do now. Everyone was commenting on her post, telling her to get her affairs in order, obtain power of attorney, make a will, get him on certain medications, etc. I commented and told her to take a trip with him. I don’t want her to have the same regrets that I have.
I love my Mom and my life as much as the next guy, but I do have these great regrets. I don’t think I will ever be able to let them go. My husband always tells me that I beat myself up and I’m too hard on myself. I guess I do and am, but that’s just how I feel. These are the things that go through my head. I could kick my own ass for not asking my Mom about her Alzheimer’s when she was actually capable of answering me. I hate myself for not being there for my Mom more in the beginning of her illness. For not being more involved. For not being present. I wish we would have taken a family trip together. Wish in one hand… The regrets that I spoke of early on in this post are things that I can easily get over. They are things that I don’t think about often. The regrets that I have about my Mom eat me up inside at times. My point is that no one is perfect and everyone is going to do or say things that they will regret. It’s all part of living and learning. Just make sure that you’re not going to have any regrets where it really counts. I will spend the rest of my Mom’s life and my own life trying to make it up to her. And, I’d like to think that I’m doing a pretty good job.
5 thoughts on “Regret”
This resonated so deeply with me. My husband (boyfriend at the time) and I took my dad to the movies and museums a lot, but now I think, “why not more often?” Why didn’t we take that trip or cross something off of his bucket list? It was so important to me for my dad to be at my wedding, but the day of I was too stressed to really savor that time with him. He was living in Peru (we moved him to a really nice nursing home there once it became too hard for my mom and he started to revert back to Spanish only) so my mom flew him to the states. I know it was a huge change for him. He was agitated on the plane and at the airport (poking the person sitting in front of him, crawling on the airport floor) and it took him a solid month to re-adjust to the nursing home (he wouldn’t let the nurses bathe him like they used to). I remember getting ready for the ceremony. My dad, the videograper, photographer, and I were waiting nearby while the rest of the wedding party made there way to the aisle. It was cold out and I was worried about my dad getting agitated/confused and refusing to walk me down the aisle (that happened during the rehearsal). The videographer asked the photographer to step out the way for a second so he could get some footage of my dad and I walking arm in arm approaching to aisle (my dad was sweet and was holding my bouquet and train of my dress–he helped lift the train when I was going down some steps, but he remained holding on to it :)). That scene is something I play back in my head over and over. What should have been an intimate moment between father and daughter (not just because of my wedding, but because he was actually able to be there with me–something I was so afraid would not happen) ended up being a moment of me directing my photographer on what to do (go make sure everyone’s walked down the aisle; hurry up, dad’s about to get upset, etc.). It was calming, it wasn’t endearing. I was in my own head, worried about my own needs, rather than spending that time with my dad. That’s the only time that we had during that entire day where it was just the 2 of us (photographer and videographer near by, but not super close). There’s so much “I wish I…”. ALL THE TIME. It’s hard to be forgiving to oneself. The only thing that sometimes makes me feel better is reminding myself that there is NO way I knew how much my dad would change or how to handle Alzheimer’s. We’re just people whose parent has the disease. We weren’t prepped for this. It’s normal for teenagers and college students to be more interested in friends than their parents. It’s normal for a bride to be worried about the logistics of her wedding and not relaxed. Of course, if we knew then what we know know things would have been different. When I learn about someone else’s recent AD diagnosis, I tell them, just like you did, to take advantage of the time they have NOW. But I often wonder how much that sinks in. I’m not sure if it really would have changed what I did if someone told me that 11 years ago. I probably would be said, “Yeah, yeah….” without really understanding how true and important their message was.
One last thing before this turns into a novel :)… in some ways, maybe it was good not to ask your mom questions about how she was feeling about memory loss or whether she was scared. I know that in my dad’s case, he didn’t want to talk about it or think about it. Doing so only made him feel sicker and less capable. THAT would have been scary for him. Instead, he tried to “beat it” and live his life as if he was ok. I often think about whether he dealt with this internally and that makes me really sad to think that maybe he was really scared but was too proud to talk to anyone about it. But on the other hand, he was always so positive and didn’t want to be reminded of the things he was forgetting. I’m not sure if you can relate to this with your mom’s condition, but hopefully it will help you not beat yourself up over it. It’s hard.
Jessica, thank you so much for reading my blog and for sharing your own story. I can completely relate to your wedding story. I was too worried about the logistics of the day and what people would think/say about my Mom, as a lot of people there did not know that she had Alzheimer’s at the time. I was so worried about what she might do and what could go wrong. It’s definitely hard to see it when you’re in the moment and it’s hard to forgive yourself for things now, but that’s all a part of life.
The fact that you’ve been dealing with this for 11 years really puts things into perspective for me. I don’t know anyone my age who has a parent with Alzheimer’s. (Other than my sister, but, truthfully, we don’t speak very much.) You make me feel like I’m not alone! Thank you for that!
I do agree that not asking my Mom about her disease may have been a good thing. Her and my Dad never talked much about it and didn’t tell many people. It’s still very hard for my Dad to talk about it. About three years after my Mom was diagnosed, I began telling anyone that would listen, which led to fundraisers, Facebook posts, and this blog. It makes me feel better and has helped my Dad to open up a little bit. Alzheimer’s is an unbelievably tough disease to deal with. I know we’re all just doing the best we can. I admire your strength for having dealt with this for so long and, like I said before, thank you for letting me know I’m not the only one. Take care!
I can’t even tell you how much I feel the exact same way you do!!! My mom fought Alz for 12 years. We lost her in March at 71. So many regrets, almost all the exact same as you. Hug her and tell her everything you want while you still can even if she doesn’t know you or understand you!! I’m so sorry you feel this way too. It’s just the most awful empty horrible feeling in the world!!!!
Stacy, thank you so much for reading my blog! I’m very sorry to hear about your mom. At least she is no longer suffering from this horrific disease. I hope you can find some peace and comfort in that. I always say it means so much to me when people who have dealt with Alzheimer’s themselves can relate to my writing. It lets me know that I got it right! Feel free to “follow” my blog by adding your email address. Thank you so much!
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