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Erma Bombeck's Regrets

Claim:   A dying Erma Bombeck penned a list of misprioritizations she'd come to regret.

CORRECTLY ATTRIBUTED

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, July 2009]

IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER - by Erma Bombeck
(written after she found out she was dying from cancer).

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have sat on the lawn with my grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, 'Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.' There would have been more 'I love you's' More 'I'm sorry's.'

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute, look at it and really see it .. live it and never give it back. STOP SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF!!!

Don't worry about who doesn't like you, who has more, or who's doing what Instead, let's cherish the relationships we have with those who do love us.
 

Origins:   Lists of life's lessons mastered are an Internet staple, such as the ones falsely attributed to political commentator Andy Rooney, the one falsely attributed to poet Maya Angelou, the one at least partially correctly attributed to humorist Dave Barry, and the one correctly attributed to Regina Brett. Yet another
entry in this category is the above-quoted list of misgivings, which has been attributed to humorist Erma Bombeck.

While Erma Bombeck (1927-1996) didn't found the genre of housewife humor (that honor belongs to others, including Jean Kerr, author of the 1957 book Please Don't Eat the Daisies), she certainly popularized it. Drawing upon her experiences as a housewife and mother of three, Bombeck produced numerous books and newspaper columns that poked fun at the mishaps, day-to-day tragedies, and sometimes heartache attendant to caring for a home and raising a family.

The item quoted above (sometimes circulated on the Internet under the title "Cancer") was based on Bombeck's 2 December 1979 column titled "If I Had My Life to Live Over." However, as with so many Internet-circulated items, as it was passed around from inbox to inbox, portions of it were added to, deleted, rearranged, and even reworded by various anonymous recipients.

As Erma Bombeck wrote it back in 1979:
Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything.

My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.

If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I'd have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten popcorn in the "good" living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.

I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television ... and more while watching real life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.

I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for a day.

I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn't show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime.

When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner."

There would have been more I love yous ... more I'm sorrys ... more I'm listenings ... but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it ... look at it and really see it ... try it on ... live it ... exhaust it ... and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.
While Bombeck is clearly the author of the piece (the content of the list didn't change all that much, after all), there is one glaring falsehood to the Internet-circulated version: She didn't write it as cancer was about to sweep her into the afterlife.

Erma penned "If I Had My Life to Live Over" in 1979 at age 52, but she died in 1996 at the age of 69. Seventeen years elapsed between those two events, and while at 52 Bombeck wasn't in the pink of health (she had kidney disease from the age of 20 onwards), she also wasn't lying at death's door, as the many books and columns she wrote from 1979 onwards, as well as her humor segments and celebrity interviews on Good Morning America from 1976 to 1987, attest.

Bombeck was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and underwent a mastectomy, but her death was the result of complications following a kidney transplant, not cancer.

In 2003, Bombeck's original column was republished with illustrations in a small gift book called Eat Less Cottage Cheese and More Ice Cream: Thoughts on Life From Erma Bombeck.

Barbara "bombeckoned" Mikkelson

Last updated:   29 September 2009

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Sources:

    Bombeck, Erma.   Eat Less Cottage Cheese and More Ice Cream.
    Kansas City, MO, 2003   ISBN 0-7407-2127-5.

    Kelly, Katy.   "Bombeck 'Good' with New Kidney."
    USA Today.   5 April 1996   (p. D2).

    Associated Press.   "Erma Bombeck."
    23 April 1996.