Over chips and guacamole one night, my 14-year-old daughter asked, “Do you have any regrets, Mom?” After subsequently choking on a chip, I began mentally flipping through a Rolodex of regrets in my life. Number one was marrying her father, who didn’t turn out to be the best of men. Of course I couldn’t tell her that, so I dug deeper.
“I regret that I didn’t go to the rodeo with Fred.” A confession -- and an epiphany.
Fred was a childhood friend. I liked him -- a lot. He had soft brown eyes, a big heart and a mentally disabled brother he fiercely protected. But I was a shy and immature 7th grader, so nothing ever came of my crush. In high school, Fred worked up his nerve to ask me out. While on our way home from a movie, he stopped to help a woman change a flat tire on the side of the road. Fred was a hero, even then.
Fred later asked me to the rodeo. I made up some lame excuse not to go. He had become a cowboy and moved to the foothills. A simple guy, living a simple life, and simply too redneck for me.
I never saw him again.
When I was away at college, Fred was killed on his motorcycle by a drunk driver. His family donated his organs, including those beautiful brown eyes, to a handful of people who are alive now because of him.
I’ve always wanted to find the man who was given Fred’s eyes. I want to look into them one last time, and from the bottom of my soul, tell him that I’m sorry I judged him so harshly, and that he was the kind of man I should have married all along.
But I can’t go back. I can only hope my teenaged daughters will learn from my mistake: To not judge someone so quickly; and to give every person they meet a chance to show them what a hero he or she can become.