Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
In one of his meditative poems from the Mountain Interval, The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost contemplates on the riveting question segment, “what if”. He is neither the first nor the last famous writer in his reflection on the intricate enticement power of the subject matter. Many of no fame have also tried to imagine the “other” path. Myself included. Most recently, via a reminder by a web site that provides daily prompts, either as questions or challenges. The rest is up to whoever wants to partake in responding. I can’t recall when I saw the following Plinky prompt but I remember too well how I wanted to not lose it: “Write about a time when you didn’t take action but wish you had. What would you do differently?”
The first thought came to me in the form of Sliding Doors – a film of substantial influence on my psyche. Written and directed by Peter Howitt who is said to have accomplished “a ‘road not taken’ premise recalling the 1921 play ‘If, by Lord Dunsany’ (1878-1957), Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (1946), and O. Henry’s short story ‘Roads of Destiny’ (1909).”
William Sydney Porter (1862-1910) – pen name “O. Henry”, with his novella, Roads of Destiny, Lord Edward John Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany (1878-1957) with his play, If, Frank Capra (1897-1991) with his cinematic production, It’s a Wonderful Life and Peter Howitt (b. 1957) with his above-mentioned film, have all directed us toward the legendary “what if” interrogation. Today, I will heed their call by remembering Oscar Wilde in his following statement: “Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”
Thinking back at a phase in my life when I dove into a row of “experiences” of grave consequences, living as if it were today through the same unrelenting wishful plea to travel the road not taken…
The year: 2007. It was my decision to leave him everything we built and acquired together – no matter how luxurious, how valuable, how plenty. No regrets. None whatsoever. Not when I am concerned. What, then, is the action I did not take but wish I had every day since? To demand that he accept one condition in return to anything and everything I left to him – that he complete the only vital step for me: The inclusion of one clause in my divorce proposal. One to guarantee that he contributes to our daughter’s – our only child – financial security for years to come. He, being the only parent equipped with status stability and work guarantee as well as an incomparably high income. But also, the sole owner of any and all material gains of significant value I passed on to him.
I was born into a strong family tradition: A child being the parents’ responsibility – through and through. It is a wife and a husband, after all, who decide to bring a child into the world. And it is therefore, also for me, only natural to do everything in one’s power to be there for one’s child in every aspect of their life.
I grew up finding out how Asım Dedem, my maternal grandfather gave my parents the money to buy their house – in which my father still lives. He was a well-to-do individual; so were his parents, and their parents, and so on. Being financially sound for many generations of my family meant one thing: Live well but spare unnecessary costs in order to be able to leave your child a solid foundation to survive their expenses. Money gifts were galore. Mahmut Dayım, my maternal uncle, still (I am fifty-seven) checks up on me with respectful diligence, in case I am in need of financial support – especially after my divorce, having attained direct insight into my sacrifices on account of it. Although my father is not from this tradition, he has been covering even the luxury-related expenditure of my brother’s family since the wedding. My brother is sixty. My father continues to take care of him and his family. While he insists on an extremely modest life-style for himself.
My family’s long-lived tradition of generosity toward its children is already broken at the doorstep of my link. Due to “experiences” I made possible before and during my divorce several years ago. With the sale of my inheritance properties in my country of birth, I became the owner of a house here in my host-land. I have, however, not taken into account how impossible it actually would be to start out anew on the shaky foundation of resources I had left to myself from my life of the past. Having to face daily, the sorrow of a long-lost career, the entrapment of an overly demanding job, the incredible limitations of an income that belongs below the radar – all, for having sacrificed time-sensitive professional advancement opportunities to help him with his career.
Once the initial euphoria of buying my freedom wore out, the reality of my mistake moved in to my entire being as a permanent companion. An unwanted escort, reminding me of my self-sabotaging tolerance but a well-deserved reminder, nevertheless.
The year: 2008. 2009. 2010. 2011. 2012. 2013. Our daughter: Abroad, in marriage since 2007. Back, in 2011. Having started to live with me, until the start of 2013. All along, struggling together with her husband to establish a life here, in her country of birth. Suffering through months of unemployment, lack of health insurance coverage and lack of a place of their own.
I sat on the side. Felt sorrow. Felt hopeless. Felt resentment. Toward myself. For having discarded all my material accumulations during the marriage at the time of my divorce. For not being able to amount to anything for my child. In providing her with monetary strength.
My daughter and her husband are now employed. But, the matter is not at all over for me. Their workload is too heavy. Their life, too strenuous. Their income, too modest. Time, too swift. I would so love to help out…
~ ~ ~
Here it is. I have written about a time when I didn’t take action but wish I had. What would I do differently? – I would not abandon any of my material rights in my marital investment that spans over twenty-five long years.
Maybe. Just maybe. You will opt to travel the “road not taken”, or assess the much-worn out path with utmost care it deserves. Instead of standing by as if frozen on the spot while the sliding door is being welded shut. As I have done.
Now? – I am working very hard to be in a position to leave for my daughter, my only child, at least a debt-free canvas when inheritance contracts are concerned.