Regrets…I’ve Had a Few – Frank Sinatra
Ever have one of those days where something happens and it makes you take stock in what your life is about? I had one of those days last week from an unlikely source.
I was reading the news headlines on the Internet and came across an article that Jackie Cooper had died. Many people born post 1980 probably have no idea who Jackie Cooper is. To them, he’s just another name of another 88 year old man who died. Someone who had some kind of celebrity status from the “Golden Age”. Someone whose time had long since come and gone. If it’s not Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber then it’s not newsworthy to most Generation X, Y, Z or what ever the hell they’re called these days.
For those of us born around 1969 Jackie Cooper will forever be synonymous with Our Gang and The Little Rascals. He was the boy who had the crush on Miss Crabtree. Ring a bell? How many hours after school or Saturday mornings did you spend watching him showing his affection for her?
Jackie went on to be nominated for an Academy Award at age 9. He also recieved multiple Emmy Awards for directing episodes of MASH (my grandmother always used to mention that fact when his name popped up in the credits and that’s probably another reason I like him).
But why would the death of this guy have such an effect on me? In a strange way, and even though I never met the man in my life, it made me feel like part of my childhood had died with him. I wished at that very moment that at some point I could have gotten to meet him in person. I remember all those early years I spent watching Jackie trying to impress Miss Crabtree. A young man on his quest for unobtainable love. Maybe it was the innocence of just coming home from school and turning on the television with no other obligations or committments. And now that part of me is gone.
There are many people in my life who are/were important to me. The people in my family are ones I’m able to tell, although maybe not as often as I should. But then there are some other types with whom I have regret. People I have never met but had a profound impact on me. Among them:
– I would have loved to have shaken hands with Bob Ross and told him how much I loved his painting. His shows brought me closer to my grandmother. It was always “our time” together after school when Bob painted. I regret not meeting him before he died in 1995.
– I would have loved to have had Dr. Seuss sign one of my Cat in the Hat books at some convention. Of course I thought he would just live forever although life has a funny way of having that effect on you. I regret he never signed a book for me.
– I would have loved to have met Mister Rogers. I would have let him know how much I enjoyed his show growing up. How I often pretended to do my own show from MY neighborhood at home. Using a bunch of old clothes and shoes in a closet I’d spend many an hour at an early age pretending I was him. How I knew all the words to his “hello” and “goodbye” songs. To tell him that I think the reason I like jazz music no doubt started from watching his show. Fred Rogers even came to Easton one year to visit the Crayola factory and I didn’t go. He passed away a short time later. I regret never meeting Mister Rogers.
Then there are the events in my life that I initially regretted but was glad how things turned out:
– I regretted leaving West Chester University after studying music education for a year. I left because I needed to find work and for years wanted to go back and finish. It never came to be but I wonder what my life would have been like had I been able to stay. Would I have been a music teacher in some school district? Giving private lessons somewhere?
One thing I know for sure is that I would not be where I am now if I had finished. I would not be married to my current wife (we got back together a few months after I was home for good). And my daughter would probably not be here either. I do not regret leaving.
– When my Dad was diagnosed with cancer in 1996 I began spending more time with him. We had been estranged for many years and it wasn’t until he got sick that we really began to reconnect again. After he passed away I regretted for the longest time not taking the initiative to see him more when I had the chance. But I eventually realized that those final years were actually the best I’ve ever spent with him. I do not regret those days.
So reading Jackie Cooper’s obituary had a two found effect on me. First of all, it gave me great “ammo” for this blog entry. But even more importantly, it made me think about where I am in life and where I’ve been.
In the future, I’ll try harder to tell people how much I care about them. I’ll also look for opportunities to tell those remaining “Jackie Coopers” how much I appreciate their work.
And I’ll look back without regret.