The Farther Backwards

It was June of 2004 and my son, Daniel, had been invited to participate in the “State Games of America” in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was a sprinter and had participated in the Oregon State Games in the past. He did very well the year he participated, so we signed him up.

At that time Daniel had his learner’s permit, so to give him driving experience he drove most of the way to Colorado.

We were in Eastern Oregon, and because I was a smoker, I had two water bottles in my lap. One bottle for water and the other bottle for cigarette butts.


Can anyone guess where this is going?


Somewhere outside of Burns, Oregon I went to take a drink out of my water bottle. I grabbed the wrong container!

There is nothing worse than taking a big drink of cigarette water and having several wet cigarette butt’s go into the mouth, as well as nasty nicotine water. For the rest of Oregon and part of Idaho I could not get that taste out of my mouth.

During those days in my life, I swore like a trucker, and blamed everyone else for my own bad choices. Swear words began pouring out of my mouth; most were directed at my son. I remember looking at him and asking him why he did not warn me. All he said was,

        “You were the one who drank it. I didn’t force you. Besides, I was chuckling, did you not hear me chuckle? That was your decision, not mine. I had nothing to do with that! You can stop swearing at me at anytime.”

I would like to say that I apologized for my outburst at that time, but I did not. Instead I acted like a child for the next several hours. Eventually I did calm down. Though I didn’t admit any wrong. I didn’t apologize for my childish behavior, until this past weekend.

Sometimes when I am struggling for a story line I will call my children and ask them for a memory. It doesn’t have to be funny or heartwarming, it can be a painful memory as well. All I want is for them to help jog my memory.

As we were talking about a different funny memory Daniel made a comment, while he laughed,

        “I guess I have something else I should talk to a therapist about.”

My heart sunk. Just that fast I remembered the eastern Oregon trip and I knew I had not made things right. I needed to apologize and I needed to do it right then.

I paused on the phone and simply said,

        “Son, do you remember the water bottle incident when we were in eastern Oregon? I just wanted to say I was wrong. I did a lot of stupid things in my younger, immature years. I am so sorry. If I knew then what I know now life would have been better for all concerned. Please forgive me.”

As I was speaking with my son a quote ran through my mind. A quote by Sir Winston Churchill:

        “The farther backward you look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”

Sometimes the greatest growth comes as a result of looking at the past and correcting behaviors so today and tomorrow can be better. I cannot change the memories and pains of yesterday, but I can change today and tomorrow. All with a simple walk down memory lane with eyes wide open.

Is it easy admitting wrongs, no, not at all? Yet, sometimes the greatest healing comes from three simple words. “I was wrong.”

Even though I did not want to hear what my son had to say, I am glad that I took the time to listen. I am glad he shared that pain with me, and we were able to talk about it.

Parenting is tough. Just as being a child is tough as well. Pains will arise, misunderstandings will happen and disappointments within the family unit, with one another, are a given.

I had a choice this past weekend. I could have chosen to down play and minimize my son’s pain, but I did not. As we were talking two questions raced through my mind. Questions I knew I had the power to answer.

        “If faced with this current “truth” or revelation do I value this relationship and this person enough to admit I was wrong? If I do, am I willing to look backwards long enough, within reason, to implement change and thus impact the future for the good?”

I chose to look back, and I am glad that I did.

I would like to say that this has a fairy tale ending, but it does not. Sometimes the past is hard to bear. But with time healing can take place, and the painful memories of yesterday will become just another chapter in the book of life.

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