Vision: Gods & Heroes and Regrets by Howard Hanger

February 4, 2018 |

I have had a stinkin’-lucky, richly-blessed not to mention joy-jammed life with very few regrets. Regrets, like worry, have always seemed to me to be a waste of time. They have never advanced my causes, enhanced my income or even gotten me a date. It’s safe to say that not one of my problems or challenges have ever been ameliorated or even amended by worry or regret.

But that hasn’t stopped me, of course. There have been some regrets and a more than a tad of worry sprinkled through my days. And nights…

Body: Let’s go to sleep.

Brain: Aw, come on. Let’s remember all the stupid things you did today.

My dad was my god. I worshiped him. My mom  was my hero. I utterly admired her. Mom was a trained and talented pianist and it was she who ushered me into the world of music. It was she who sat with me or at least listened from across the house as I practiced piano.  I remember on several occasions intentionally hitting a wrong note or skipping a measure and hearing her call from the kitchen or wherever, “Play that again.”  Without my mom, I would have never written a song, travelled with my band or recorded my big hit, “Dog Breath.”

My god and my hero loved each other deeply. After decades of marriage, they would sit on the couch holding hands or playing smacky-mouth. They took us kids on cross-country trips always laughing, joking or singing songs with us. Though neither of them were water-bugs, since we lived in Fort Lauderdale, the ocean and beach were our hangouts.

Then there was this: Mom suffered with manic/depression or bi-polar disorder or whatever you want to call it. 95% of the time, she was fine. But then, she would slip off, go manic and then dip into deep depression. It was rough. Big-time rough. However, when the disease wasn’t taking her down, she was a phenomenal Mom.

Then Dad died. Young. 57. From a misdiagnosed lung disease. And Dad’s death blew Mom apart. Her whole life crumbled. When my father died, our family was devastated.

Mom had to move out of the parsonage, or course, so she lived with friends for a couple years. Then I got married and my wife and I moved into a house in Atlanta. We had an extra bedroom, and as a 23 year-old goofy newlywed, I thought it might be good for Mom to come live with me and my new wife.

But the psychiatrist and the counselors who were working with us advised strongly against it. They said, “Your mom will transfer her love of your dad to you. And it will be destructive to her and to your relationship with your wife. She needs to find her own place to live and her own place in this world.” And I bought into it. Mom never verbally asked to come live with us; but I could see it in her eyes. And I wanted to be with her in her grief and to share my grief with her. But I never offered it to her. And I have regretted it ever since. Do I understand the concerns of the doctors? Or course I do. But she was my mom and I, her son.

And then, to top it off, Mom died two years after my wedding. Suddenly. Pulmonary embolism. I learned of her death in a phone call. And I have time and again wondered, “How bad could it have been for us to spend her last two years together?”  I don’t know. It might have been a down-in-flames disaster. But I have a gut-grinding sense that our fidelity and Mother/Son closeness to each other might have been a comfort… a calm… a healing for both of us.

Can we learn from our regrets? Hopefully. Perhaps next time I’ll listen more to my heart and less to the professionals. Or value love more than practicality. Mary Oliver wrote, “Someone I loved once gave me a box of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too was a gift.” I think she was onto something.