“So what would you say are your big regrets in life?”
I asked my husband this, knowing what my line would be. I’d been thinking about it and appreciating how cute and funny it was all day long. We were sitting on our deck, looking out over Lake Superior, a setting made for deep, contemplative conversations.
He pondered. He gazed at the lake. Then focused on his coffee as if there were tiny words floating around, hints about his important regrets. It worried me, how seriously he was taking my question. I figured he’d throw it off, claim he had no regrets and then quickly ask me, “what are your regrets?”
And then he started. He listed his regrets as if for an entrance exam at a big university. Not being bilingual. Making a big mistake at work. Second-guessing decisions about our children. Finally, after he’d rattled off a dozen pretty impressive regrets, he asked me for mine.
I waited a bit. And then told him what I’d been thinking since the day before when I sat in the truck with our dogs while he went grocery shopping at the Jack’s in Manistique, the new Jack’s that sits just across US 2 from Lake Michigan, the last full service grocery for 100 miles, a store where you could buy naan if you had a mind to.
“I wish I had bought more deli meat.”
I waited for him to laugh. I waited for him to wave my silly regret away. Oh, we were fine not having a lot of deli meat, he should say. What’s the big deal about deli meat? The stuff in the little packages is just fine. Who cares?
“Yeah,” he said. “My mother bought deli meat. It was a Saturday night tradition.” He looked out at the lake. His wistfulness for deli meat was so real, so earnest. I could see his mother’s delicate hands unwrapping the deli meat from its paper wrapper at the table, a loaf of marble rye nearby.
“It’s where I learned to put creamy coleslaw on a sandwich.”
I stopped then, knowing I was treading on sacred ground. The regret filled me up. It would have been such an easy thing to do. Take a number at the deli counter at the grocery, wait for the guy to ask me what I’d like, and order a pound of corned beef or baked ham. I could’ve bought decent cheese, too.
But no, I had to be in a rush, buy the meat in little plastic containers, look for the cheapest edible thing. It came from trying to feed all those kids, I thought to myself. But they’re gone now. Things can change.
From now on, I’m buying deli meat. With marble rye. And creamy coleslaw. Unless he’s shopping, then he can. Either way, a life with no regrets lays ahead. We can fix this. Not for the past but for the future. Change is possible.
It’s a new day.