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Back in Time for a Do-Over?

If you could go back in time to one particular day and do things differently, what day would you choose to change?

A book I just read reminded me of the question my son asked me one day after school, which really had made me pause.  I was about to give him my standard answer of how I try to live my life with no regrets, but then I started thinking.  There are many things I look back on and grimace. Did I REALLY do that, say that, behave that way?  A do-over…would I take it?  Would you?

I know what you’d say,” he told me.  He was tired of waiting as this Zen Mama Wannabe revisited memories from a long time ago.  ”You do??” Believe me, he actually had no idea, but I was curious to hear what he had come up with.

You’d go back to the day Grandma died.  You would make it so you could be there with her when she died.”

Ah yes, THAT day.  That horrible morning at home as I made arrangements to find a skilled nursing facility that would take my mom after surgery on her broken hip.  She was in the process of being discharged from the hospital and I still wasn’t sure where she’d be going from there.  I had spoken to the hospital once that morning and they were to call me back with confirmation if this one facility had room for her.

The phone rang, as if on schedule.  It was the hospital and I was anxious to hear what they had worked out.  ”Did someone from the hospital just call you?” the idiot medical person asked me. When I told her no, she didn’t miss a beat.  Not one beat.  Not a split second.  Just an immediate, “Well your mother died.”

She had been officially discharged by the surgeon earlier that morning.  I was waiting before heading out to the hospital that morning to find out what rehab facility would take her.  No “I’m sorry to tell you that….” to give me a little warning.

Perhaps if handled better I might not have SCREAMED in the phone.  No.  NO!  NO-O-O!!! Perhaps with some compassion at the news I was about to hear, I wouldn’t have traumatized my children by screaming and crying over and over into the phone.

It went around and around in my head. She had been discharged that morning. Everything was fine.  I was waiting at home to find out where to have her transferred to.

As I frantically drove over to the hospital, I kept sobbing over and over. “Oh Mama!  I should have been there!  I should have been there with you!” My kids were silent in the back seat.  I had no capacity to be strong for them — I had put my mothering hat aside.  They too seemed to realize that for the moment this was about a daughter dealing with the gut-wrenching loss of her mother.

You’d go back to that day,” he told me.  ”You’d do it over — so you could be there.”

It had taken me months after her death before I finally could understand that it was truly better I hadn’t been there.  For both her and me.  My head knows that now.  It is only my heart that raises doubts from time to time.

No,” I replied, shaking my head.  ”I’ll pass on the do-over.  You gotta live with no regrets.  Or at least try to. Everything happens for a reason.” That’s what I think.

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(This post was inspired by the book 29, which I received through From Left to Write, an on-line bloggers’ book club.  29 asks – and answers – the question: what would you do if you could make a wish and go back to a particular day in your past.  Like my son, 29‘s author Adena Halpern sure knows how to ask thought-provoking questions!)

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7 Responses to “Back in Time for a Do-Over?”

  1. 29: A Novel by Adena Halpern – A From Left to Write Book Club | Says:
    April 12th, 2011 at 4:36 am

    [...] Jennifer Hollander from Zen Mama Wannabe considers a do-over [...]

  2. Emily Says:
    April 12th, 2011 at 6:46 am

    I agree, no do-overs in life, only learning experiences. You are right about not being there when your mother died. I was with my father and it was traumatizing to me, although I am glad I was able to comfort him as he passed.

    Death is always hardest on those left behind.

  3. Amy H Says:
    April 12th, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Wow, what a powerful story…from your perspective and your son’s. My dad has been in and out of the hospital for the past 6 years with all kinds of life-threatening issues since being diagnosed with brain cancer. Every time I get one of those calls, I try to figure out how to drop everything to be there. I so fear not making it in time one of these days. This gives me a bit of peace to remember that the only thing I can control is how I cope with it. And you’re right, life should not be lived with regrets. Thanks for this beautiful post!

  4. Brandi Says:
    April 12th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Yes. You are right. You can’t live with regrets. I really do believe that things happen for a reason…even when they hurt us or cause us sadness. When my Grandmother passed, it was on the one day I didn’t go to the hospital to see her. I don’t know how strong I would have been if I had been there, though. Thank you so much for sharing this post. I’m sure it will bring many of us comfort who have been in similar situations.

  5. Melissa Says:
    April 13th, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Made me cry. That’s a tough one. My husband lost his mother a couple years ago to an anneurism. By the time we got to the hospital, she was still alive, but without any brain activity. It was horrible seeing her like that. I’d much rather remember her as the lovely, vibrant woman she was.

  6. April Says:
    April 13th, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    I’m still reeling from how you were told! I’m so sorry for your loss. I suppose there really is no easy way to get that kind of news. I know I’ll never be prepared to lose my mom.

  7. Lauren Says:
    September 3rd, 2011 at 7:31 am

    Horrible way to hear such life-shattering news. I also subscribe to the “things happen for a reason” philosophy.

    Absolutely no do-overs. Just do-betters next time. My guilt ends up in my writing – the best ulcer prevention medication on the market.

    I never returned my grandmother’s call before she had a stroke, slipped into a coma and died several months later. I kept putting it off until tomorrow. I’ve learned since then that tomorrow isn’t reliable. Today is my friend.

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