By Kristeen Bruun
These days, regrets swarm around my head like the swarms of no-see-ums used to do when my siblings and cousins and I played in the northern Wisconsin woods. We were all liberally slathered with homemade mosquito repellent made of kerosene. (And maybe something else; I don’t remember what. We never bought anything that we could make.)
My family were townies. We always had indoor plumbing and electricity, but not all the cousins did. And my grandparents didn’t, until their adult children got together and paid to have the electric line run into their home and the well water pumped inside. I was an adult myself by then.
I don’t know why I was born a bookworm with a thirst for learning. Nobody knew why, actually, and my family gave me a lot of grief about it as I was growing up. I got my first library card at the age of six (thank you, Andrew Carnegie), and have had one ever since. It’s always the first place I turn whenever I have a problem. Surely someone has written a book with the answer!
It feels like a long time from the Wisconsin woods to a BA in English. From registration to graduation, it took me six years and a lot of false starts. I was not only the first in my family to go to college (they have programs to help those people now), I was the first in my family to graduate from high school. Neither of my parents had been able to finish. We never knew anyone in the professions, except nosy social workers, and I knew I didn’t want to become one of those people who only existed to give us grief!
I didn’t quite know what to do at a lot of turning points, in college and in life, and as I look back now, this is what I have been spending my time regretting. What could I have done, what should I have done, how might my life have been different? (I might have retired with a pension, for example.)
Why didn’t anybody help me? Or did they try, and I was too blind—and stubborn—to see? It’s such a strange experience, to come from where I came from, and to try to integrate into a middle class society which assumes so many things (a college education, for example).
Then I read Naomi Rossow’s blog in which she discusses her plans to attend nursing school and comments, “I had started to idolize my own plans,” and then she adds, “Of course, God had a plan.”
So I began to look at my own turning points differently. In every case, when I considered what actually happened, and compared it to what I thought, in retrospect, should have happened, I could see that in my real life, I have been able to be a part of something that never would have happened if my life had turned the other way, not even my lucrative dreams.
In midlife, I began to work toward a Master’s Degree in Theology. (I usually put this one on the list of Major Regrets. I would often mutter, especially when setting up and taking down 50 chairs for what felt like the millionth time, “I should have got an MBA. It would not have taken any more time or energy.”)
While working on that Master’s in Theology, I met a professor emeritus. He did not have any specific duties, so that meant he had time to become a friend. We had a lot of fun together. He had a great sense of humor. Time went by and he was moved to an assisted care facility several hundred miles away. It was not easy, at that time in my life (I didn’t even have a car), to put together a visit, but I did it. While I was there, I took him out for walks in his wheel chair, and at night, after his caregivers put him to bed, I got out the massage oil and massaged his arms and legs.
I wanted to visit him one more time, but I was advised, “Don’t bother. Let him go. He doesn’t know people anymore.” But a mutual friend came back from a visit and told me, “He might have forgotten a lot, but when I said your name, he popped right up in his chair.” He never forgot me. The mind forgets, but the heart remembers.
God had a plan. God knew that, at the end time of his life, Micah would need a friend, and that I would be there to be one for him. Micah was a highly respected professional with far more achievements on his resume than I will ever have. But at the end of his life, he was lonely. For whatever reason, those who might have filled the gap were not there for him, but I was. This was a gift from God for both of us, because I needed a friend also.
My life’s journey includes other stories that are similar to this one. I may not have known what I was doing as I was making my choices, but God had a plan.
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 100:5 (NIV)