Regrets, balloons and past sins
Vail CO, Colorado
Harold led a pretty good life.
He had his faults. You don’t live over 90 years without making mistakes, causing some pain and even hurting those you love. There was the drinking, gambling and insensitivity directed to his wife and children. Some years were better than others but all in all, if his life were judged in its entirety, Harold was a decent man.
He raised seven children, ran a successful gas station and outlived his wife of over 50 years by a decade. I knew all his children well and, depending on which one you ask, they have varying opinions of their Dad.
I was witness to some of Harry’s shortcomings as a parent. I saw him mock his sons and criticize his daughters. He labeled his son Mike a “light-weight” when he failed his driver’s license test three times in two months. When his daughter wore a modest two-piece bathing suit to the town pool he said she looked like a “two-bit whore.”
But all that was during the times when Harold was drinking hard.
During that same period he sent four kids to college and helped his divorced daughter buy a home.
I played sports with two of Harold’s children; I don’t think their Dad missed a single game. He was both proud and critical. Before we had our driver’s license he would give us rides home from the games while critiquing our performances. In the middle of telling his son Keith that he had dropped a pass that should have been caught he looked at me and, referring to a missed tackle of mine, said “And you Bergeron, you looked like a Matador dodging a bull when that halfback ran by you. I expected to hear you yell ‘Ole.’ I know you aren’t chicken so you must be stupid.”
When Harold retired and quit drinking he softened considerably. Though he never said this to me it seems he was trying to make up to wife and family for past sins. Some of his children forgave him more so than others; his wife did completely.
They had 15 good years when Harold was mostly sober and his wife was healthy.
When his wife developed Alzheimer’s, he was loving and patient.
After my own parents passed away whenever I’d visit my hometown I’d stop in to play cribbage with Harold. He lived alone in the home where he raised his family. I don’t think I was ever there when at least one of his children did not stop by.
I think it is possible to both love and resent an elderly parent. Some of Harold’s kids simply loved him, while some displayed both emotions. For me it was easy, he was guy who I’d known all my life ” an eccentric curmudgeon. Harold was good company; he could even once again enjoy an occasional beer.
The last time I saw him I had a feeling it would be the last time I would see him. He was 92 and was looking frail. He did manage to win one of the three cribbage games we played ” one I beat him handily, the third I was lucky to win.
After the cards were put away, he sent me to the refrigerator for two cans of beer. We cracked them and he said he deeply regretted putting two fours in the crib, which allowed me to score eight points and win by three.
I said, “If that is your biggest regret in life you are lucky.”
We drank in silence.
A half can later I ” and I don’t know why I did this ” asked, “What’s your biggest regret in life Harold?”
As soon as I asked, I regretted it.
“I regret not buying my daughter another balloon,” Harry said, then finished his beer.
He slowly got up and headed towards the kitchen and asked if I wanted another one. I didn’t answer and he came back with two.
“Sis (his wife) and me, we took the kids to the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. We watched it outside of some pub and Sis would stay with the kids while I’d go in and get us a couple of pints. Sis reached her limit, I kept going.”
Harold continued, “We bought each kid a helium balloon shaped like a shamrock and tied the string to each child’s wrist. Mary untied her string to take off her coat and lost the balloon. You should have heard her cry. She bawled all the way back to the car. We must have passed 10 guys selling balloons. For 50-cents I could have fixed everything, instead I decided to teach her a lesson.” He took a long pull off his beer and said, “I still dream about that.”
If it were my call, I’d say a balloon wasn’t Harry’s biggest sin. Or perhaps it was.
Harold led a pretty good life …
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available.
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Vail’s updated plans regarding the state guidelines and isolation housing requirements is one of several pieces of information guests are waiting on heading into the 2020-21 season.