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Warmest Regards: What would you do differently?

There’s an old German expression that says: Too soon old, too late smart.

In a similar vein, Benjamin Franklin is credited with the claim that life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.

I do think we get wiser as we get older. One reason might be that over time we become more introspective.

Celebrities are often asked what they would do differently if they could do it all over again.

Personally, I’m more in tune with the sentiments in the classic song, “My Way.”

I mostly relate to these two lines:

“Regrets, I’ve had a few,

But then again, too few to mention.”

Overall, I do have very few regrets.

I am more than content with all the big decisions I’ve made, especially with my career and marriage.

Somebody up there was looking after me when my husband Andy came into my life.

One of my fondest memories is kneeling beside him during our wedding ceremony, feeling God’s blessing and fully aware of the gift I was being given in marriage to Andy.

They say that marriage and career are two of the most important decisions one can make.

We often ask others where they work. “Work” doesn’t convey the decades I spent in my journalism career. I often joked I was glad my boss didn’t know how much fun I was having working at the newspaper because I might have to pay him instead of the other way around.

Sure, there were many long days and challenging days. But at the end of every day I was grateful to be there. I considered myself extremely lucky that my work was never “just a job.”

While I am more than content with the major decisions I’ve made, I do have regrets for some things I’ve done and some things I never did.

One of my biggest regrets is that I never knew how short life really was.

I thrived on life with my big, crazy Italian family and knew how blessed I was to be able to bask in the attention of my four aunts.

I used to complain to my friends that I could never get away with doing anything wrong because in reality I had five mothers, my mother and her four sisters. They had eyes everywhere. If I went for a walk with a boy before I even got home my mother knew about it.

But my aunts also made me feel appreciated and special. They had a way of listening intently while I talked to them.

There’s a survey out now by two Clemson University psychologists asking respondents to answer the question of what they wished they could do differently. They asked what advice we would give our younger selves that we wish we would have known earlier.

I thought of my aunts when I read that. I wish I would have told each of them why I thought they were so extraordinary. I wish I would have told them how I valued having them in my life.

Twenty-five years after they passed away I still remember how they enhanced my life.

Why do we never tell our loved ones why we appreciate them so much?

Why did I never tell my mother how much I looked up to her, how I appreciated her strength?

A few mumbled “I love you” just doesn’t begin to say what I wish I would have told her.

Why did I often say to my dad, “You’re so smart,” but I never told my mother “You’re so strong and wise?”

Why do we hold back from those words of affirmation?

One of the frequent responses to the questionnaire about regrets was about parents. Many respondents said they wished they would have spent more time with parents while they still had the chance.

Alas, adult children all too often say they can’t visit parents because “they’re too busy.” They say that between work and their other responsibilities they don’t have time.

When I hear people say that I think to myself, “Don’t you know the day will come when you wish you would have been more attentive?”

Some savvy adult children have solved the problem of connecting more with parents by taking advantage of today’s video technology.

They set up a regular zoom meeting where everyone can see each other and talk as if they were in the same room.

While many parents have computers, setting up a zoom meeting might involve getting someone to set it up. My son-in-law had to walk me through it.

As one might expect, regrets about career and marriage ranked at the top of regrets of survey participants.

One main regret cited by many involved money. All age groups reported having an inability to save money.

Some 30-year-olds responded by saying they find it impossible to follow expert’s advice to save 10 percent of everything they make. They claim there’s nothing left over after they pay bills.

While that can become a serious problem for many, it is most acute for those who have retired.

“I wish I would have saved more,” was cited as the biggest regret.

With gas and groceries escalating it’s getting harder to get by.

Think about it. What do you most regret at this point in your life?

Liz Pinkey is a contributing columnist who appears weekly in the Times News