By Deanna Campbell
On my son’s first birthday I wrote him a letter. In it, I described everything I was feeling on that day. All the things I wanted him to know. All the ways he changed my life. I sealed it in an envelope and placed it in a box where I’ll keep all the letters I write him, each birthday until he turns 21.
It’s easy for me to list all the things I want the adult him to know and it’s easy for me to think about all the things I want to teach him as he grows up. All of these lessons and hopes, constantly in my head, all of this worry that somewhere along the line I’ll miss one. And yet still, despite all of these, my biggest hope for him is that he grows up as someone who learns their own lessons along the way and makes smart choices.
My parents taught me many things, how to be generous, how to be kind, how to think smart. Their lessons have got me where I am today and for that, I’ll be forever grateful. But, there are still so many things I wish I had the sense to know as I was growing up. So many things that I should have done, that I can’t believe I didn’t do, looking back now…
I should have spent more time with my grandparents.
Hazy memories of my grandpa’s weathered hands teaching me card tricks on the front porch. Baking powdery cream creations with my grandma as the light streamed into the kitchen in their tiny home filled with more love than I could ever describe. Tears in my grandpa’s eyes as he mumbled incomprehensible sentences in his last few days. I wish I’d taken the time to get to know him more. I wish I’d taken an afternoon or two in my teenage years, when I was always so ‘busy’, to visit him, to sit at his bedside and let him tell me tales of his life. I wish with all my heart that they could have been here to see my son grow.
I should have spent less time worrying about what other people thought.
Searing words that left scars in my heart, always directed at the chubby smart girl who read books and wrote stories. So many tears wasted on the words of people who didn’t really matter.
I should have said what I was thinking.
That time a true friend, a dear friend, slowly began slipping away. I should have said stay.
I should have treated my body better.
So many should-haves. And that’s the sad truth, isn’t it? As we grow up, we live and we learn and it becomes easier to see the things we should have seen all along. Everyone has their should-haves and I bet every now and then something happens, a little moment in your life, that makes you think of something you should have once done.
It happened to me one day, not too long ago. So I got out my old photo album, passed down through the years to eventually take its place in my home. I turned to the pages filled with the happiness of my grandparents’ lives and I promised myself that, even though my son will never know them, he’ll know of them. He’ll hear stories of laughs and love and their lives. He’ll know where we came from.
I sent a message to that friend. I never said stay. I should have. So that day, I said hello – how are you – it’s been too long.
What are your should-haves? What do you wish you’d done? Make a change. Take a risk. We all have our should haves.
Deanna spends her days buried in a jumble of words and her nights trying to balance family life and everything in between, all while doodling the name Grohl on her notepad and watching reruns of Supernatural. If it’s on TV, she’s seen it. If it’s the latest fad diet… she’s tried it. She’s got a lot to say. Be warned.