If you knew then what you know now

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@tc.tc — Twit­ter: @ Wanger­sky.

Do I have a recipe for pizza crust ...

It’s one of those things you al­ready know, or else may have dif­fi­culty tak­ing in. I think it’s also some­thing that a lot of peo­ple my age are right in the mid­dle of dis­cov­er­ing: that, af­ter your par­ents are gone, you’ll sud­denly re­al­ize that there is some­thing, that there are many things you want to share with them, and that you will never be able to have a chance to do it.

Pe­riod. Full stop.

I mean, it’s ob­vi­ous, if you stop and think about it — we just don’t ei­ther stop or think.

Both of my par­ents have been dead for a num­ber of years. Both died of cancer, far off in Vic­to­ria, B.C., in a house they bought be­cause my mother wanted to be far from the Hal­i­fax snow.

It’s sim­ple things: a joke I’d love to share with my fa­ther, be­cause it was the kind of bad joke he dearly loved, or a labour-sav­ing trick or a tool that my mother would have loved to have had.

A recipe for bread — even shar­ing the re­al­iza­tion that, even though I didn’t think about it, they were prob­a­bly wor­ry­ing about lots of things in my life that I never thought they would have. (Just as I now worry about my grown-up kids, even though they are al­most cer­tainly as obliv­i­ous of that as I was.)

I find my­self men­tally reach­ing for the phone — try­ing to re­mem­ber their phone num­ber, be­fore re­mem­ber­ing in­stead, jar­ringly, that it’s not their num­ber any­more; that it’s a much longer long-dis­tance than I was imag­in­ing.

When new par­ents bring a baby home, they get lots of ad­vice: they’re told about the good things, about other peo­ple’s ex­pe­ri­ences; they may even get an ear­ful about the lack of sleep and lone­li­ness that ba­bies can bring with them. Bring a baby into a room and ev­ery­one’s talk­ing about ba­bies: the good, the bad, the messy.

It’s not that way when one of your par­ents dies.

When par­ents die, what you hear most is that peo­ple are sorry to hear about it. Friends may tell you about their favourite mem­o­ries of your loved ones, but no one really tells you the hard truth: that you will mourn for a long time, and that things will hap­pen that you will want to share with those lost par­ents, and you’ll fall into that hole, on and off, per­haps for years.

It’s not just the sim­ple fact of miss­ing them — no. It’s the fact that you don’t get the chance to see some­thing and say, “I know now. It took me al­most 50 years to un­der­stand what you were say­ing, but I know now.” You don’t even get to say that you’re sorry for the worry and has­sle the young you might have caused.

I think my par­ents were prob­a­bly sat­is­fied with the fam­ily and world they built. I know that they prob­a­bly came around to this very same re­al­iza­tion about their par­ents to some de­gree, prob­a­bly at just about the same point in life where I am now, and where they, too, sud­denly weren’t able to share it with their par­ents ei­ther.

Not the great­est of cir­cles for any­one in­volved.

You’re busy. Ev­ery­one is busy. But if your par­ents are still around, you could re­mem­ber the phone num­ber. Heck, you can send email, if those same par­ents are tech­nol­ogy-savvy enough to use that method of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

I heard a really good joke that would have made my dad pull an old cloth hand­ker­chief out of his pocket to wipe tears from the corners of his eyes. And I have a pizza crust recipe — oh, I have a pizza crust recipe.

I just don’t have a place to put ei­ther of them.

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