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Yeah, I Do Kind Of Regret That

May 30, 2016

He was a veteran and he’s been gone for several years, so a Memorial Day post about my Dad seems fitting. He was a reluctant soldier. One of those called on to do his duty to country during a time that wasn’t exactly war, but wasn’t exactly peace, either. He served during the Cold War. When he took his Army entrance exam, he scored low on two sections: reading schematics and memorizing codes. The Army made him a telegraph operator in the tiny town of Barrow Alaska. He was the only link the tiny town had to the rest of the world. A good telegraph operator could send at 60 words per minute. My dad, when he started could send at 5. 

He left the service when a sergeant ordered him to climb a radio transmitter pole and replace a light bulb on the top. My dad was afraid of heights and refused. Giving him an honorable discharge was easier than court martialing him for disobeying a direct order. 

His death a few years ago was neither sudden nor unexpected. As the end drew near, my mother asked if I wanted to come and say goodbye. I’d helped them fly home out of Denver just a few weeks earlier. 

No, Mom. We’re good. I got a chance to say goodbye. I have no regrets.

It is true that I had no regrets at the time of his death, but there was one big regret I had experienced when I was a teenager. One that to this day still bothers me. 

My friend Carson is finishing the basement on the house he built a year ago. In the basement is a “man cave.” In the man cave, in addition to the TV, and the cool pictures on the walls and a shuffleboard table (Yeah, I don’t get it, he’s younger than me!) right in the middle of the room is a pool table. The table is about 7′ long and the room is designed such that you can use full sized cues. The pictures look awesome.

I love pool. I know that it’s associated with seedy bars, and that whole “Music Man” issue.

You got trouble. Right here in River City. With a capital “T” and that rhymes with “P” and that stands for ‘pool.’

But, the sound of the cue ball during the break. The smell of the chaulk. The green felt table. The excitement of setting up a combination shot and seeing it go in with the cue ball ending up just where you needed it. All of these give me enjoyment. I think my love of pool goes back to a time when I was a kid living in Minnasota. My grandparents had a pool table in their basement. We lived with them for a while. We got to play as often as we wanted. Well, it was a farm, so maybe not as often as we wanted, but certainly as often as free time would allow. I was ten. I wasn’t very good. But, I sure enjoyed it. 

I’ve watched Carson post pictures on Facebook as the room and then the table are literally being assembled before our eyes. My house is too small for a pool table. Well, too small and too full of kids. Even now, I would love to have a pool table. And that brings me back to my regret from all those years ago. I remember it like it was yesterday. We, my mom, my dad and I, we’re in the kitchen. I was about 16 at the time. To my dad I said,

I wish we’d had a pool table.

What was that?

I said, I wish we’d had a pool table. 

Why didn’t you say something before now?

Well, because there is no room in this house for a pool table, for one thing.

Sure there is. We could have set it up in the garage. We weren’t storing cars in there anyway. There’s plenty of room.

Yeah, but it’s kind of a big expense just so that I could play pool, no matter how much I enjoy it.

What makes you think you are the only one that enjoys it?

What was that?

Rodney, I love to play pool. Have all my life. I would have enjoyed having a pool table. 

I just stared at my dad. I had no idea, no clue that a pool table was something that he would have been interested in getting. 

Well, we still could maybe?

No. My eyes are too bad at this point.

And there it was. The unasked question. I thought I knew the answer. My parents were not going to spent thousands of dollars on a pool table and stick it in our garage. Of course, they wouldn’t. Would they?

 We lived in that house from the time I was eleven to the time I moved out at 19. My dad bought a boat but didn’t enjoy being on the water. He paid for music lessons, summer camps, a nice 35mm camera. I did not lack for stuff as a kid. 

And he would have sprung for a pool table too. Watching Carson’s man cave come to together, I’m reminded that we do not get things for which we do not ask. 

On this Memorial Day, I salute my dad for his service, reluctant though it might have been, along with the other service men and women who died defending our country. I have no regrets concerning my dad’s passing, but there’s a question I’d really like my eleven year-old self to ask him. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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