I wish I had listened more.
I wish I'd had more patience.
I wish I'd sorted through those boxes 15 years ago.
I know that hindsight is 20/20. I know I was generally a good daughter. And I know my parents were proud of me - but I can't help but wish that I'd spent more time really getting to know them. Asking them questions. Learning about their pasts. Actually listening to their responses.
Maybe they wouldn't have shared much - but the papers I found gave glimpses to the story.....
I found letters from my dad to his parents during his freshman year of college. He was homesick. He was a chemistry major. He was failing. He wanted to come home.
I found his old homework assignments. Papers that talked about his loneliness and his trouble finding his place. Notes where where his teachers wrote "Are you sure you should be in college if you feel this way about school?" OR after my dad noted that he had trouble expressing himself, a teacher wrote: "You need practice. Lots of it." He triumphed, and graduated from Clarkson with a degree in Accounting.
I found his rejection letters from the state of New York after he passed the Civil Service exam, but then disclosed that he had epilepsy. They denied him a job for "medical reasons." It was 1960. They could do that then. Luckily his local congressman and The Tri-State Epilepsy foundation went to bat on his behalf and he was offered a job. A job he retired from 25+ years later.
I found a letter from my grandparents who were "elated" to hear my "parents news." Though it doesn't say what the news is, the tone implies that my mom was pregnant with her first child. The date is 3 years before either me or my brother was born.
I feel fortunate to have found these glimpses into my parents' lives, despite some of the heart wrenching tales the letters told. My only regret is that I didn't read them sooner.
Had I known, I might have been more tolerant. More empathetic. More respectful. Every family has a story to tell. The secret is to listen.
5 years ago