Haphazard Reminiscence and Gratitude

My wife on the Shenandoah River along the Blue RIdge Parkway, during our honeymoon
My wife on the Shenandoah River along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, during our honeymoon in 2003

Forgive me a bit of rambling reminiscence and reflection, if you don’t mind. I guess this is one of the hazards of committing to blogging every day for forty days.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been remembering some things from more than twenty years ago lately, from shortly after my family moved to North Carolina, three weeks after I graduated from high school in Mansfield, Ohio.

I had been involved in theatre for several years by that point and still intended to make it my career. I had done some acting, though it would be in technical theatre where I eventually made a 10-year career of sorts (mainly getting me through college and then the few years after that). But I still had an idea during that one year between high school and college (1993-1994) that I wanted to act and sing on stage. So I got involved in the community theatre scene in Garner, North Carolina, right after my family moved there from Ohio.

For some reason inexplicable to me, the name of a young lady I very briefly (weeks?) dated during that year came into my head today. I can’t remember the last time I thought about her or the people I knew at the time. I remembered that she was a twin, and I also remember people asking me at the time why I hadn’t gotten involved with her twin sister, who was the more “serious” of the two. I honestly don’t remember, myself, but it was probably as simple as that this was the sister who paid attention to me.

When I think back on the girls I dated in high school and shortly thereafter, I wonder sometimes just what the heck I was doing. I certainly wasn’t looking for a wife. I had no idea what I was doing.

I try to remember those things when I speak with teens these days. What can seem so clear and obvious to someone who’s almost 40 is not nearly so obvious from the teenage perspective. Something else may be obvious. It is very hard to think when you are a teenager of things that are really important in the long term. There is basically Right Now and also Someday, but I don’t recall there being the sense of Work That I Must Keep Doing except in the sense that it might serve the Someday.

Or maybe I was just one of the dumbest teenagers and the rest of you fared much better. It’s getting harder for me to remember. What I do remember is embarrassing to think about.

But as I do try to remember, I wonder how my life might have turned out had I ended up with this girl or that, if I had remained close with this friend or that. I sometimes look them up online and come across traces of them via Google, and I also wonder how their lives might have turned out differently. Would this one have come along with me to Orthodoxy? Would that one have convinced me out of it? Would this one be okay as the wife of a priest? Why did I ever break up with that one way back when? I can’t even remember.

The game of “What if?” is both frustrating and tantalizing, of course. But I am actually quite glad that I met and married the woman I did, though it took me another nine years after moving to North Carolina before I met her.

I am not the best husband. And I am also not the best father. But if I had ended up with one of those other young ladies, then I wouldn’t have my wife, and I wouldn’t have these kids. And I can’t bear the idea of not being with any of them.

I remember that, shortly after I met my wife, she made a mix CD for me of various songs. I think she meant to communicate various things with the selection, but I was probably too dense to get it all. I did get that she was being kind to me, though.

One song that’s stuck out for me is a Garth Brooks country song called “Unanswered Prayers.” The singer sings how he’s grateful for not ending up with someone whom “each night I’d spend prayin’ that God would make her mine.”

Yes, it’s cheesy, as much country music is. But it actually summarizes for me pretty well the feeling I have when I think about all the “What ifs” of my past. There are things I regret, to be sure. But I’m grateful for the path my life has taken.

These are good things to remember.


  1. Father Stephen, I’ve had exactly these same thoughts (well, our personal mileage varies). I sometimes think of what CS Lewis has Aslan say in one of the Narnia books (I think it was Dawn Treader): It is not for you to know what might have been.

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