Jimmy stood beside his father and stared at the polished granite of his mother’s headstone. The scent of lilacs filled the air, emanating from the bouquet in his father’s hand. Lilacs had always been her favorite.
“Do you ever regret it?” Jimmy asked, suddenly and without prelude.
His father looked thoughtful for a moment. “Do you want the polite answer, or the truth?”
Jimmy waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. “I’m sure that the polite answer is that you don’t regret it at all,” he said. “That meeting Mom and having me were the best things that ever happened to you, and that you wouldn’t trade a single second of the time we spent together for anything.”
His father nodded.
“But that’s not true, is it?”
“No,” his father answered, shaking his head. “But it’s not entirely untrue, either. Falling in love with your mother and having you are the best things that ever happened to me, no question. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have regrets.”
He sighed. “What your mother and I had was wonderful. But now I’m here, and I miss her more than you can even imagine, and I wonder where I‘d be right now if we’d never met. Would I have fallen in love with someone else? Would we have shared the same sort of bond? Would that person still be alive? I can’t help but think that if we hadn’t fallen in love, I wouldn’t be here, in this cemetery, feeling like someone tore out half my heart. But because of what we shared, that thought makes me feel like I’m betraying her somehow, which makes me feel guilty, and that, I regret. Because remembering a life spent with woman like your mother shouldn’t be a source of pain.”
His father shook his head and scrubbed at his face with his hand. “I don’t know. It’s complicated, I guess.” He kneeled down and gently laid the bundle of purple and white flowers at the base of his wife’s marker.
Jimmy smiled, reached down, and placed his hand on his father’s shoulder. “I think she’d understand, Dad.”
“She probably would,” his father agreed. He reached up and covered Jimmy’s hand with his own, and they returned to staring at the monument in companionable silence.