I had this great decal on my last car. It consisted of a skull with a dagger through it, surrounded by red roses. Underneath it, written in Old English were the words “No Regrets.”
I wanted to get that image tattooed on the side of my body, with those exact words; words to live by. In my mind, I pictured myself as this adventurous, free-spirited sort of person; a person who was able to look Risk in the face and shout, “Bring it on, Baby!” If that risk then resulted in disaster of ginormous proportions, I still would be able to shrug it off and tell myself, Well, at least I have no regrets.
Then I realized, Who am I kidding? That ain’t me. I have more regrets than there are tattoos on line at Social Services. Having no regrets is a great way to live, but if you were born Catholic like I was, regrets go hand-in-hand with guilt, and that better describes my personality.
Have you ever had those moments where you’ve wanted to freeze time so you can go back and do something all over again? Moments where you’ve experienced a wave of anxiety, because you know it’s too late to change the way things have turned out; moments that make you want to beg to a Higher Power, “Please give me another chance to make a different choice.”
My son has been fascinated lately by the idea of reincarnation. I believe in it, and I’ve told him such. His little mind tries to grasp the vast concept; one that I have trouble explaining in simple terms. I initially introduced the idea to him so that he wouldn’t be afraid of death, his or mine. I wanted him to know that when you die, it is possible to go on to something else, something better. It isn’t all darkness and maggots and nothingness.
I’ve told him that when he dies, he can be born again into a different body—sometimes a different sex even, with new parents, in a new country. The downside is he’ll have no recollection of his previous life. This makes him sad, of course, because he doesn’t want a new mommy, but I can see the wheels spinning in his head when I say there’s a chance he can be a girl, living in Russia.
Sometimes I tease him by telling him he can also come back as a spider; he’s terrified of them. In my best Mr. Miyagi voice I say, “Teach you not be so afraid of spiders.”
One night as we lay in bed, discussing the pros and cons of coming back as a girl or boy, he said, “I hope I have a dad next time.”
There was a huge FREEZE moment. One of those moments where I felt sick to my stomach; a moment so full of regret, and sadness that I would have given anything to be able to rewind time and change things.
“You have a dad,” I said without conviction. We both knew I meant only in the biological sense. His eyes filled with tears, before he quickly brushed them away.
It’s too late for my son to grow up with a father. It’s too late for me to find him a step-father. Coaches just don’t cut it as a male role model, and all but maybe fifty teachers in the world are female. Forget priests; forget his grandfather. Our Chihuahua isn’t filling the father void, and neither are the cats. Or the parakeets.
This is something I cannot fix, and for a parent, it’s heart-breaking. How do I raise a boy without understanding men myself? Where’s the manual that guarantees a strong and independent productive member of society, with a good sense of hygiene and the ability to pick up after himself? Who can teach him how to be a man today, when most of the time I go out of my way to avoid men?
I’ve stocked up on all the Die Hard and Lethal Weapon movies. When he’s old enough, we can make some popcorn and put our feet up while watching them together. I may not be able to teach him how to burp the alphabet or wolf-whistle, but I can teach him how to make some killer brownies to impress his future girlfriend, and that the secret to a sparkling toilet bowl is pumice stone.