Ann Keiffer

The Big Regret

Last week my biggest regret crawled out in the open
and lay sprawled and odiferous out on the deck.

I was not glad to see it. It was as welcome as a
dying, disease-ravaged possum. And not as cute.

I thought if I poked my regret, I might be able to
make it go away, so I went to get an 11-foot pole.

And from that distance, I squatted down to peer at this
hoary, sorry regret, scientific name: mater onlyonceus.

How long ago it was when I planned for a family of six,
four children, white picket fence, Sunday school, ballet,

ball games, birthday parties, and family celebrations.
And I was thrilled when I got pregnant the first time,

joyful to deliver our perfectly beautiful baby boy.
Then six days later, after complications, I nearly died.

Oh, I lived…but terrified. And so I poured out all my
loving on this one lone child, our first and our last.

For forty years I believed it was my fear of death, blood,
and trauma that had stolen the family I had planned.

But now as this sad and sorrowful 40-year-old regret
lay splayed out in front of me, steaming in the noon-day sun,

a sudden thought blasted me like water from a fire hose:
I chose the life I have. It wasn’t tragic bad luck. I chose it.

My life spun on its axis, registering the women who have
pursued motherhood with all that finances and heartache

can bear, enduring weeks of bed rest, a cervix sewn shut, surgeries, miscarriages, risking all for a babe in arms.

It spun me dizzy, disoriented, to realize these 40 years later:
If motherhood had been my calling, my deepest yearning,

I would have had more children. No matter what the cost.
I chose the life I have, so, by default, also chose its sadnesses:

The subdued holidays, a paucity of riches–no rough-and-
tumble, big-family life, family gatherings and celebrations.

While I did not consciously choose to have just one child,
perhaps my soul chose for me, creating a life more true to

who I am than the one I had imagined for myself, a life that is
spacious, quiet, a good life for giving birth to poems and art.

I took up my 11-foot pole, thinking to nudge the old regret
to see if I could urge it to crawl away and leave my life forever.

Ah, but there was nothing there to nudge, no entity.
All these years my regret, a case of mistaken identity.

Ann Keiffer
June, 2011


About Ann

I am interested in the strange beauty of brokenness, in transforming possibility in difficult times, in how we heal even when we can’t get better, in the alchemy of surrender, in the interplay of light and shadow, in the bounty of everyday wonders, in the gift of laughter…and writing about it, all and everything.

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