Don’t hope for an epiphany—create your own

The Christian calendar marks Epiphany at Jan. 6, when the Magi visited the infant Jesus.
Epiphany has a number of meanings that all circle around the realization of some great truth. I always expect my own epiphany after the calendar flips over to the new year, as if some understanding—some greater knowledge—will fall from the sky and hit me squarely on the head, rendering me suddenly wiser.
It has never quite happened that way so this year I thought I might create my own epiphany, or at the very least come to understand the truth of others.
Lately, I’ve been paying attention to the wisdom of those in their advanced years, in a way I haven’t paid attention before. Perhaps this is because I am more than aware of what my old great-aunt meant when she said, while shaking her finger at me, “That’ll catch up with you one day.”
She was right. The many falls from wily ponies and haylofts, and careening down Aunt Evy’s hardwood stairs with Kathy aboard a toboggan (yes, you read that right, a toboggan), have left their unmistakable mark on me that I feel in the morning when I crawl from my bed, wincing and moaning and trying not to notice that I no longer bounce.
Or maybe my heeding the wisdom of the aged is because I know my children are not paying attention to my particular brand of wisdom, acquired by life’s trial and error (mostly error in my case).
The common thread I have noticed in these senior declarations is the fact that regrets are far more abundant in the category of having not done, and have little to do with having done something badly. Having said that, I do not want to go bungee jumping, so I promise not to confess on my deathbed that my assessment is otherwise.
“Oh, if only I had . . . ” will never include the word jump in any context.
I do regret, however, not asking questions when I had the chance—questions for those who left me without notice or warning.
I suppose I might have inquired of William Shakespeare if, having had opportunity to reconsider, he would have penned his masterpieces in simpler English or would that have foiled with Grade 11 boys napping in the back row of English literature class.
I might have asked the developers of the seedless watermelon if their time might have been better spent on something else.
But those aren’t really questions with heart. I would want the questions to simply allow the answer to be heard, to be considered. I would have asked the tough questions, not to harm or upset but to allow the truth out in the daylight where it couldn’t pretend to be bigger than it was.
I would have asked my father if dreams sometimes should be taken off the shelf and dusted off. He told me we were both dreamers. “That’s not a good thing,” he said when I smiled, happily content at the age of 12 to have anything that meant I was just like him.
He died before I could ask him how dreaming could ever be not a good thing.
He spent hours at the kitchen table drafting barn plans, plans for extending the kitchen four feet, and greenhouses, but none of these plans made it to brick and mortar. He said it was in the dreaming and having something in front of you to reach for.
I would have asked him if he knew he was dying and if he did, what would he have told me.
I would have asked my grandfather why he took photos of barns with H.K. Smith & Son and the like, and why there was not a single daughter on any of those barns. What exactly was he documenting and did no girls live on any of those farms?
I would have asked my mother if she was afraid when she first had Alzheimer’s, and I would have taken her face in my hands and assured her I would be her memory and what were the most important parts that I should write down and keep safe.
And for purely selfish purposes, I would have asked her if she had a favourite memory of me—even though I would have been afraid there wasn’t one.
I would have asked anything that puzzled me, not letting the possible answer take me off course. Then I would have paused, having taken a big breath, and waited and listened.

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