Things I Regret

funeral, black and white, death, family

Tom Brechlin on taking things for granted, his father, and coming to terms with his biggest regret.

What do I regret from my teen years? I regret not listening to my dad as much as I could have. What you have to understand and keep in mind is that I was the proverbial “surprise” in that my parents were older when I was born. Being the youngest of 7, my parents had their hands full. Couple the fact that I was the youngest with my growing up and turning into a hippie, my dad and I often didn’t see eye to eye. Also have to take into account that he was from a much older generation. Literally a turn of the century generation.

I was 20 when he passed away. After his death, the older I got, the more I understood who he was and why he was who he was. As much as it hurt back then, I miss him more now then ever before. I often thank him for who he was. I am my father. I just wish I could have told him back then how great he was. But back then, I perceived him as my advisory, someone who didn’t understand because he was from a much older generation. “Free love”, “save water, shower with a friend” … long hair, ripped jeans, I can imagine how I must have looked to him.

I regret not appreciating him more for all that he did to keep the family together, a roof over our heads, meals on the table. I regret pissing him off because of my own selfishness and only concerned about what made ME happy.

Dad was a strong man who seldom showed emotion. According to my mom, even after losing a son and daughter at a young age, my dad was the rock. It wasn’t until after his passing that my mom said one of the few times she ever saw my dad cry was when I was 15 and he saw me off at the airport where I was going to vacation in Hawaii. I looked at my mom and asked, I was going on a vacation, what was he upset about? She said that he saw me as his last son and the trip represented the reality that I was growing up. I represented an end of an era, closing a chapter in his life.

In my heart I know he was a great man but I wish to God that I appreciated him more when he was alive. At his funeral, I struggled. It took me a good hour before I could walk up to the coffin. That was an amazing night. Where we had one of the largest viewing rooms, the parlor had to open up two additional rooms to accommodate the over flow. He had such an impact on so many people … why didn’t I see it at the time? Yeah, I regret it in a big way.

So here’s to you dad. I love ya, I miss ya and THANK YOU, you made me the man, dad, husband and grandfather I am today.

Read more on regret or family from the Good Men Project

image credit: Burns Library, Boston College/Flickr

About Tom Brechlin

Devoted Catholic, married 39 years, two grown kids and TWO super cool grandson. Former corporate executive that left that world and has since spent the last 15 years working with adolescent males in a residential treatment center. Has 1 dogs, a Golden (recently lost him to cencer) and something related to a swamp rat, 2 cats, and a parrot named Paco.


  1. Thank you Mickey. Yeah I thing that has a lot to do with it. I see a lot of my dad in me. Through the years, I’ve found myself saying the same things he once said to me. All of a sudden, you begin to understand your dad.

    Sadly my kids never knew him but know him well…… does that make sense? My first grandson is now 4 ½ years old. When my daughter got pregnant, she and her husband had only been married a little over a year so I was surprised that they were having kids so soon. She gave me a fathers day card which was addressed to “grandpa” …. Needless to say, I was elated. But something she said really hit home for me. She said that she wanted to have kids so that they could grow up knowing their grandpa where she never had that opportunity.

    Although my dad is long gone, he really does live on.

  2. Great article Tom. I have the great fortune of having become a father while my own father is still alive. It is one of the strangest ironies of life that we learn how to appreciate our parents even more after we have children of our own. I imagine it is because of the shared experience of raising children that suddenly places us on an “equal” ground for the first time in our lives.

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