IF THERE WAS ONE MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE YOU COULD GO BACK AND CHANGE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
by Sara Stone
My sister, 14 years my senior, was having marriage trouble. She was divorcing, or already divorced from her husband who was an alcoholic, but having also his second child. His name was Andrew. Due to various kinds of stresses, my sister was extremely uninterested in Andrew when he was a baby, and unlike the first born, who was the first grandchild, Andrew was not celebrated. Not oo’ed and ah’ed over.
I could see the difference; perhaps my sister and parents couldn’t; but I sat there one day and watched how he was left in his play pen at our house when my parents were talking with my sister for a very long time; I kept wondering why they weren’t picking him up.
The moment I wish I could have changed was right then. I wish I had stepped in – I wish right then I had treated that child just as the first had been treated. But I was /too far gone into my own defenses in my teen years.
Then, later, Andrew was eight years old. He was still wetting the bed. He wasn’t physically maturing as strong as the elder either. And he had a younger rambunctious brother who was more accepted than he. I had an interaction with him where I connected, he noticed, I noticed, my parents noticed.
This is the second moment I wished I had changed. I knew then that I could make a difference. But there was nothing in me to follow up with to make that difference. So I did nothing.
Years later, I had a tidy sum of money from a medical malpractice settlement. I went to visit my sister. Andrew was an adult. We went for a walk. Andrew was now suffering the beginning of his own relationship with alcohol. He said to me, “I’ve always felt a certain connection to you.” This is the third moment I wished I had changed. For I, again, did nothing to move this forward, in fact I was coarse with him, for no reason, other than finding dealing with alcoholism in general unpleasant.
Finally, once I was back in the states, my sister suggest I move to Michigan where I grew up and where she lived then. But specifically, she said, I should move to Whitehall, near both her younger boys.
I took it as meaning she didn’t want me around her, which she may not have as well, but I think today, she was hoping for some good things to come for my son with her two youngest boys, and perhaps for Andrew under my influence if I decided to reach out. That’s the fourth moment I wished I changed, for there would have been nothing wrong with doing that, especially reaching out to Andrew who was more or less lost.
Why are these the moments I wish I could change, and not say, the moment I looked at and then chose a charter school that nearly ruined my life and my son’s? Or a myriad of other influential door-opening and/or door-closing moments?
Because Andrew is dead now. And I could have made a difference. And I believe I was supposed to make a difference, otherwise, why have family at all, and I blew it. It is the single most important thing I didn’t do in my life was help Andrew. I was supposed to, I know this today, and I did not.
Faith. I lacked faith and wherever I have lacked faith, when I look back, I can see I also wasn’t able to muster up the love that was needed to work things out with others and have things in my life blossom, for my sake, and for others.
Today, I have more staying power to go with my starting habit; that’s good, because then there’s more fruit, but I still have a long way to go.
But that’s the moment, the first one, when I saw that baby laying in that crib, neglected, and for all intents and purposes, not loved. It was on me.
Are there any worse words than “I could have?”
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