Wednesday 20 August 2014

Regrets! Regrets! Regrets! Taking Chances - WEP's Challenge for 20th-22nd August 2014

Welcome to WEP's Challenge for August 20-22, Taking Chances.

'Taking Chances' is a thought-provoking theme/prompt for a writing exercise. The image suggests something romantic, but so many different interpretations are possible.

Here is a story about Greta Celsing and her older friend, Ivar Larsson, who usually play the violin together on Tuesday mornings. 

Regrets, regrets, regrets!

'Shall we play this piece first before we have tea?' asked Greta as she put the sheet music on the stand, while Ivar was tuning the fiddles. 

'Why don't we start off by both playing the melody together and then I can play the chords,' suggested Ivar, since he was a more experienced musician. They both took their instruments in hand and began to play.

'You need to fine tune your fiddle. You're flat.'

'Oh, I'm sorry,' said Greta, 'I've made such mess of everything!'

'No, no. You've almost got it. Here, let me help you. Listen to how the A and the E-string sound together.'

'It's not just the tuning. It's my whole life. I have so much to regret!'

'Greta, you're only 22. You're too young to have regrets. What do you regret? What are you talking about? Later on in life you might regret wasting good time in your youth. Why don't we use the time that we have to practice our music?'

'Alright,' said Greta a little ashamed. And they played a folk melody for about twenty or thirty minutes.

'Let me tell you about my father', said Ivar when they took a rest and Greta poured the tea.

'My father had the 1918-flu when he was in his twenties. He survived, but I think it left him with a weakness, because he died when he was only 56. He wasn't well for several years and treated us all very badly, especially our mother. He had something on the brain and could not think right. He was sloppy one day and left his jacket lying on the floor. The cat came and peed on it. He was so angry at the cat that he went out and shot it. Dead. Just because it had messed up his jacket. So after that we were all on our toes and tried not to get him upset.

He had an operation that relieved the pressure on his brain. And since he had been bedridden for so long, I took him out in a row boat and rowed him around Stockholm, where we lived at that time. It was in late winter and there were still ice floes in the water. But he loved it. He dipped his hands into the cold water and laughed as he hadn't laughed for years.

'You took him out in a row boat? He could have drowned.'

'Yes, but by not taking him out, he would have missed an opportunity to feel alive after being so cooped up and ill for so long'.

'How old were you when this happened?'

'Eighteen. I wish I could have had him longer. I have already outlived him now. I wish I could talk to him today. He never got to see all the good work I've done. He only saw my school work.'

'Is this something that you regret?'

'No. I'm sorry that he died so young, but that had nothing to do with me. He didn't die because of me. It was just fate; the way things can be. 

The one thing that I do NOT regret is the fact that I was at home with him at the time when he suddenly became himself again. My sisters missed it. But I just happened to be there. It was some months after the operation, when his thoughts suddenly cleared. 

He looked at mother and me said, 'Now I know how difficult I've been. I'm so sorry that I have given you so much grief. But not now. Not anymore. I'll never be mean again. We're going to be happy from now on,' and he threw an apple between his hands as accurately as a juggler to show us how well his coordination had become, now that he had finally recovered. 

I was dumbfounded of joy. I sat and talked with him and I stayed with him, because I wanted to; because I had missed growing up and going through my teens with a normal healthy father. At that moment, I could finally see what a fine man my father was. And that he loved us. I was so happy. All the hard work of nursing him at home and bringing in buckets of drinking-water and wood for the wood-burning stove; and helping my mother. And protecting my mother from his rage, was rewarded in that moment. In that one golden moment.

But it only lasted a few hours until he suffered a new stroke and died.  

But for the rest of my life, I have been able to be happy, because I happened to be at home, at the right moment, and saw him as he was when he was healthy and good. I think this is why I haven't felt guilty. I did what I could. I was there when he needed me. And those few precious hours before he died gave me a happy memory to live with. To this day.

'Ivar, what are you trying to tell me?'

'Use your time wisely, Greta. Take care of those who really are important to you. Then you won't have to feel sorry. Now, let's play that tune one more time.'

Word count according to WordCalc: 881

P.S. Yes. This is a work of fiction. I had sifted through four or five different story ideas, and nothing seemed to work. I guess I don't really like writing about regrets. I like stories about chances that are wonderful and unlikely. Life is filled with missed opportunities. Fiction should be a place where you don't have to think about regrets. This story is based on what a friend of mine told me about his life. So it is not really my own story. But I like it so much, that I wish I had made it up myself. 

Yes, yes, I know. I'm 'telling' rather than 'showing'!


Best wishes,

First Commenter:

D.G. Hudson
D.G.Hudson - Rainforest Writing

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