Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Regrets, I Have a Few

On a weekend not long ago, Bethany, my daughter, bagged a coyote and her man.

The gentleman who proposed often goes by Colt, his middle name. The mind swims with comments about horsing around and a possible resemblance to parts of the equine anatomy.

But Colt did a stint in Iraq as a recon sniper, which makes me think in this case a little discretion wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Besides, I’m more interested in the girl who shot the coyote. Ten years ago, I would have laughed at the notion of Bethany tromping around the woods, clad in camouflage and toting a gun, or wading into a stream with a fishing rod in hand. But, when she finds time to send an email, there is excitement and exuberance in every word she writes about her adventures in the outdoors.

I’m not sure how I feel about guns and hunting. Guns scare me, and thinking about the morality of hunting confuses me. Killing animals doesn’t seem quite right, but we humans have been doing it ever since we came down from the trees and learned to wield a club. The protein from meat enlarged our brains, helping to make us what we are today: bipeds with swelled heads.

But, from what I can tell, Bethany is a responsible outdoorswoman and has no interest in simply littering the wilderness with carcasses. More importantly, she has found something she can throw herself into and pursue with ardor and zeal.

From the time Russell, my son, first picked up a pencil he has been drawing. Every time we went grocery shopping at the old Edward’s in Saybrook, we had to get Russ a tablet, because the one we got him the time before was full. Always, in the back of his mind, there was the notion of becoming a cartoonist. When he was going to Harbor, his drawings appeared on the Star Beacon's Gap Page, and in college he contributed to the Daily Kent Stater.

Russ never stopped drawing, but after graduating from Kent he made only a few desultory efforts to market his work. Then the light went on. In the last two years, he has drawn in the neighborhood of 500 cartoons and submitted them to various magazines. He has sold 10.

Undaunted by a two-percent success rate, he continues to draw and submit. Some day, perhaps he’ll hit it big, become rich and be able to support his old man in the style to which I hope to become accustomed. Then again, maybe he won’t. But, he’s doing what he enjoys doing and pursuing that elusive dream.

One evening in late May or early June 2006, I sat at the kitchen table reading A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson’s account of his effort to walk the length of the Appalachian Trail. Bryson is a marvelous writer, and it wasn’t long before he had me thinking about walking a portion of the trail. Then I remembered: I’d be hard pressed to walk around the block.

In the years since I found out I have Multiple Sclerosis, I’ve looked up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, down from Pike’s Peak and across the Grand Canyon. I’m a very fortunate man, indeed. But that night at the kitchen table in the house on Myrtle Avenue where the kids grew up, I realized my biggest regrets weren’t the things I did but shouldn’t have done. What I regretted most were the things I wanted to do, the things I could have done but didn’t.

As I follow the exploits of Russ and Bethany and see them get after it, as they say, or when I think about the joy some of the athletes I covered brought to high school sports, I like to think that when they reach this more contemplative stage of life they will have fewer regrets than I do.

I would like that very much.

This first appeared in the Star Beacon, February 26, 2010.

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