Who do you regret not talking to?

A very specific sort of regret: people you had a lot of close contact with in the past, and were nasty or unpleasant jerks you tried to avoid, but who had some valuable insight for you if you could have tolerated them better.

I can think of two in my case: I had a (now-ex-) FIL who was very knowledgable about art, both in terms of art history and of painting and sculpting techniques, and who loved to ramble on and on and on about both subjects. He was a self-centered and boorish fellow who nurtured the worst, most oppressive relationships with his family members, and I disliked him intensely but, now that he’s died, I realize that rather than avoiding him whenever possible, it would have done me good to encourage him to tell me everything he knew about art. He probably would have treated me well if I had done that, and if I had been better able to avoid getting pissed off when he would interrupt his art lessons with insulting personal remarks to me, abrupt orders to do something for him (fetch him a drink, sit up straight, etc.). I could have been much more knowledgeable about art if I had realized this much sooner.

My other example is my former boss, who had been promoted way above his level of competence and who drove me crazy with his egocentric, double-dealing, pretentious running of my department for over 20 years. But he had been schooled in acting (which was not the subject of my department) by one of the world’s top acting instructors in his youth, and he gloried in remembering his closeness with this instructor and with some of his (later quite famous) fellow acting students. I’m fascinated by the craft of acting technique, and I could have pumped him to tell me all he knew about acting. Instead I avoided talking to him as much as possible because I found him obnoxious and insensitive. But again I could have gotten years of knowledge out of him, and probably a better relationship, if I’d realized sooner the potential there.

How about you?

My “third grandfather” about his experience during WWII. ‘Doug’ was actually my neighbor growing up (1985-1999), and had some B-25 memorabilia (to include a bomber jacket) in his closet, He never talked to his family about it, and rumor is that when his wife found his Purple Heart, he snatched it out of her hands and threw it away. Doug has since passed, and his kids, and grandkids want to know more. Being then-active duty, I could have . . . I should have politely asked him, with empathy and sensitivity what he’d seen and done. It wasn’t until after he passed in 2015 that some of his kids asked about his POW status. . . :exploding_head:

I have checked with the National Archives, but unfortunately Doug’s records were lost in the 1970s fire in St. Louis. Doug and I were close–bretheren-in-arms across generations–and I missed an opportunity to gracefully, sensitively document his experience for his next-of-kin.

Rest in Peace, Doug.

My father died five years ago at age 91. We talked now and then, but of nothing of consequence. He was a distant father, both to my brother and me. He never showed emotion toward us and didn’t talk about his past. He would angrily deflect questions about his parents and his upbringing. I sensed that he had a terrible childhood, but I never knew what had happened to him. He was an only child and had already disowned his parents by the time we were born. My mother, who died before my dad, also never knew why he hated his parents. I would love to know what happened to him, but nobody can tell me.

I had a pretty good friend whom I knew in college. He met and married a British au pair in Philly and when he wasn’t making it there they moved to London. We exchanged letters all the time (we are talking the 1960s) and on my way to Switzerland for a year’s sabbatical, we stopped in London and stayed with them for a few days. While there, there was an absolutely stupid altercation involving my son pushing over his son. We apologized but he never forgave us and the correspondence stopped. I really regret this.

It turned out later that we were actually something like fifth cousins. A third cousin prepared a genealogical chart of his extended family and, as I was glancing at it, I noticed the name.

Yes my own father died over 20 years ago. At the time he had retired with disability and we never knew a whole lot about his general upbringing. Only my Mother knew most of it and she died 5 years ago.
What I regret about my father was not talking to him about his early life.
He was orphaned - his Mom dropped him off at a neighbor’s house (this was in 1920) - and never returned. His name and birthdate were given to him so we don’t actually have any records.
Both of my parents grew up during the depression and as such were very strict about a lot of things and were also very secretive about their lives to an extent which leaves us with not a whole lot of information.
We tried to get information on my Mother later in life but all records were lost in a fire.

I shoulda taken that call in the library…

Some of these would be excellent contributions for the Mysteries in your family thread.

I recently found out more about my mother-in-law’s family, which even her chidren hadn’t understood. I regret that we (her children and me) hadn’t gotten the information earlier, as now most of the people have died. She’s also easily confused, so we were fortunate to get the information that we did.

When I first saw the topic, I thought of a student from from freshman year in university. We were study buddies for physics and spent a lot of time together that first year. For sophomore year he moved off-campus, and I was involved with my boyfriend (now husband) and we drifted apart and didn’t chat much the next three years. During my last week on campus before graduation, I walked past his room, but didn’t knock or even try to contact him.

A year later I read his obituary. I missed the three years (maybe 4) of wry comments and a very different way of thinking about the world.

Some of these father stories are interesting to me. I know my father was abused as a kid. His second wife told me, but she didn’t tell me the details because it was too horrible, she said. I didn’t push her.

I know dad’s mum was a harpy from lots of rumors, but I also know from the same sources that her early life wasn’t great either and there was a time when her parents considered tattooing her whole body and and making her a side-show freak (they didn’t and she ended up as a model, for a while, but what happened in the intervening years I don’t know).

There are some things I am probably better off not knowing. So I don’t regret not talking about it.

Charles Mingus. He was sitting by a swimming pool at a hotel where my dad was staying while visiting me in Boston. He was kind of an intimidating presence (Mingus, not my dad) but I wish I had had the nerve to at least say hello.