My Regret

I regret what happened to Joseph. We boys built an underground fort in the woods — don’t ask me how ten-year-olds moved all those railroad ties and logs, but we did.

One day, two older boys buried Joseph in that fort for a laugh, while I stood watching, unable to come to his defense. When Joe began to scream, we all tried to dig him out, but couldn’t budge the railroad ties. He lost consciousness, almost suffocating to death. Thank God he survived.

I regret cheating in fourth-grade. Though I didn’t cheat per se, I let Matthew look off my math test. He was about as skilled in arithmetic as a bucket of coleslaw. The teacher sent us to the principal’s office to get the Holy Spirit whipped out of us. If such punishments were employed today, our principal would likely be in jail.

Times have changed.

Also, I regret the first published article I ever wrote, for a small newspaper. My information was exponentially wrong. The article was a kindhearted tribute to a deceased woman. Except, as it happens, she wasn’t dead. When she phoned the paper, she demanded for my crucifixion on a telephone pole. So did her children. And her grandkids. Her husband rather liked the article.

I’m also sorry I wasted a few years of my life on someone who didn’t like me. I’m sorry I took so long to finish college. I’m sorry I worked for egotistical employers — all twenty-eight of them. I regret not visiting Daddy’s grave last year. I should have. I regret driving past the redheaded woman with a child in a stroller. She held a sign reading: “My daughter’s hungry.” I think about her a lot.

My regrets are like noseeums. And I’m not stupid, I live in the South, you can’t kill noseeums. They’re indestructible. Swatting them does no good, you only end up slapping yourself. Kind of like crazy people do.

And, I’ll bet if Daddy were alive he’d say, “Don’t regret things, son. Your mistakes make you who you are. Take me, for example, the only thing I ever regret is behaving.” Then he might laugh. And then I’d laugh.

God help me.

I regret that he’s not here.