Monday, February 9, 2009

A Woman in her Thirties Plays 'What If'... Carefully

Last night at dinner with L's family, the topic of discussion moved when L began a sentence with the words 'If I could do it differently...' We sat there for a good forty minutes, even after the bananas beignets had dissolved into a soupy mess in the middle of the table. L's father began telling a story involving a chance encounter on his way to New York City, a meal with a wealthy benefactress, and a lost opportunity to go to Yale. As we probed for more details, he went on to reveal that he had also turned down an opportunity to get a PhD at Princeton. As with every time L's father speaks, I found myself shutting up and thinking 'must write this man's memoirs. must write this man's memoirs...'

These types of conversations leave me feeling intoxicated in ways that I think only the likes of Amy Winehouse can relate to. I usually start with the first day of high school, Mr. Greenwood's PE class, and move on to K, which quickly gets me thinking about T and all the ways in which my life would have (should have?) been different. Thirty years of chance encounters, stupid decisions, excellent decisions, and lucky breaks. Each turn my life has taken has led me straight to where I sit tonight, wondering 'what if'.

This weekend I was listening to a priest speak about a friend of his who had just died. He was apparently a famous attorney, well known and respected in my area. He died one of those honorable deaths, his devoted wife of fifty years by his side, his children tearfully sharing with anyone who would listen what a great man their father was. I hear these types of stories and think that there are some people for whom there is no regret-- they live, they work, they love. Somehow they are chosen to avoid 'what if'. I guess, as a woman only in her thirties, I don't know if I am chosen for this fate. Maybe this is this fate I must choose.

Last night, as L's father spoke, we asked him why he didn't take any of these opportunites that presented themselves during his life. 'I was stupid!' he said at one point, smacking his forehead. It was his tone of voice that made us laugh, a mixture of 'what if' and 'maybe' that sounded a whole lot like happiness.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written, Ms. Shanna.

    I loved that conversation, as well. But perhaps because I was raised by the same father, there is a part of me that believes that saying, "what if" is a healthy part of being human. At the end of the day, we may well look back and smile and appreciate the fact that those missed opportunities nevertheless led us to a destination we've grown to love and embrace. But I think a little "what if" along the way may well encourage us to live our futures in such a way that we appreciate our pasts that much more.

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