My way, with just a few regrets

Neil Snarr - Contributing columnist

Neil Snarr with native family during hunt for beluga whales up the Mackenzie River 200 miles above the Arctic Circle.

Neil Snarr photo

We all live with regrets. Some are minor, some are major, some stay with us and some simply evaporate.

Some have to do with jobs – for instance, my parents were offered a position with friends who started a candy company in Chillicothe which became very successful and at one time had a store here in Wilmington.

My father eventually was offered a position with the National Cash Register (NCR) which included schooling – a position I’m certain he never regretted. For one thing he was paid $25 a week while going to the school even during the Great Depression! He retired when there were still some 17,000 employees in Dayton – before the company fell apart and many employees lost their retirement, which he did not.

If you want to know what NCR does now in its diminished state, just go to Walmart and use their check-out machines – NCR-built! That was after my father told me they had 95 percent of the world’s cash register business.

The candy store offer was important enough to emerge in my parent’s thoughts on occasions, but I would call it a “loating regret.”

When I was in the army in Germany in the mid-’50s, I took a leave by myself to Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Since this was still a very difficult time economically for Europeans, every family had to make money any way they could.

When I stepped off the train, I found dozens of women, mostly with children, lining up offering their homes for overnight accommodation – the line of families seemed to go on forever. I thought, “What an opportunity, I’ll select the mother with the most attractive daughter” – simple enough! We went to the home of the woman with the attractive daughter, I had a good night’s sleep and a very good breakfast; I have no idea what happened to the daughter.

The last time I saw her was at the train station! That is not really a regret, but as a story it did stick with me.

Before I was a Quaker and had no thoughts about the issues related to war, I volunteered for the draft in order to receive the GI Bill of Rights (free schooling for four years paid for by the U.S. government). This must have been one of the best decisions I ever made in my life – it provided me with schooling in 13 institutions of higher education, five degrees, no debt at the conclusion, and finally a teaching position at Wilmington College for over 40 years.

Regrets? Don’t be silly!

I started off by saying everyone has regrets — some major, some minor. I’ll start off with two rather minor regrets of mine.

First, I was in Nicaragua on the Pacific beach with my wife, one son, 10 Wilmington College students and the family with whom we were living for the eight weeks. There were fishermen on the beach caring for their nets and dug-out canoes, and some way or another I was offered an opportunity to go fishing with them starting at three in the morning. For some reason or another I simply couldn’t consent to go – I regret that I didn’t take advantage of the offer, but with no serious consequences!

On a trip to Inuvik — the most northern city in North America (two hours above the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territory of Canada) — I began having trouble with one eye. I went to the newly established hospital on two occasions and the very young doctors had no idea what was the matter.

Through the native Inuvialuit family who had access to the island on which we were living during the hunt, I was offered the services of a shaman. Shamans are traditional healers or priests commonly referred to as medicine men or witch doctors; however, they can also be women.

For some reason I turned down the offer and I really do regret that. After all, I have spent time in cultures that depend on such forms of health service, and this experience would have helped legitimize my teaching. I survived the lost experience, but with little consequences.

Finally, after a few weeks in Mexico which included visiting new locations, my wife and I were within a few hours of the destination of millions of Monarch Butterflies – their North American wintering location. It would have been a very possible trip, but we had been gone from home for a while, were tired and simply were homesick.

We passed up the opportunity and came north – sorry we missed an unbelievable event, but we succumbed to the temptation of giving into our bodies, and we have lived through it!

I wish I could conclude these thoughts with some wisdom that would enhance one’s decision-making and diminish the chances of poor choices that could result in serious regret. Literally, this is the stuff of being human and living in a world of contradictions.

As a response to this dilemma, I’ll quote the lyrics of a famous song sung by Frank Sinatra – “My Way”: “And now the end is near, And so I face the final curtain, My friend, I’ll say it clear: I’ll state my case of which I’m certain, I’ve lived a life that’s full, I’ve traveled each and every highway, and more, much more than this, I did it my way.”

Neil Snarr is Professor Emeritus at Wilmington College.

Neil Snarr with native family during hunt for beluga whales up the Mackenzie River 200 miles above the Arctic Circle. Snarr with native family during hunt for beluga whales up the Mackenzie River 200 miles above the Arctic Circle. Neil Snarr photo

Neil Snarr

Contributing columnist