The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:
I’m a woman in my late 70s. My children live on their own and my husband has already passed away. At this last stage of my life, I’ve started to feel sorry for a man whom I dated but rejected when I was in my 20s.
We didn’t have any plans to marry; we just went on a few dates, but I knew he really liked me. However, I coolly broke up with him for somebody else. The man eventually quit the company and went somewhere else.
I now reproach myself over and over again for not breaking up with him more sensibly and in a more considerate way.
Now that I’m at an age where death can come at any time, I want to apologize for what I did. I understand that living a long time isn’t necessarily the key to happiness.
What should I do? Please help.
C, Kanagawa Prefecture
Dear Ms. C:
I came up with two ideas after reading your letter.
One is that your frustration is common among elderly people. No matter how much we regret our conduct toward others in the past and want to apologize to them, we don’t even know whether they’re still alive. Let me tell you what I did.
When I was in university, I was asked via an acquaintance to become a pen pal to a U.S. university student. I also received a photo of her. I was vain and ashamed of my poor English writing. I also felt daunted because she was much more beautiful than me.
Time passed while I was thinking I would ask an expert to rewrite my poor English letter. I was asked for a reply twice in later letters, but I never responded.
She was probably very disappointed and even thought how rude this Japanese woman was. When I recall this incident, I’m so embarrassed and feel like I want to disappear. As women from the same generation, I hope she lived a happy social and private life afterward.
Like me, all you can do now is to pray for his happiness and apologize to him in your mind, I think. In my realistic viewpoint, he may have been able to get over his affection for you and start over after he was dumped.
The other thing I want to tell you is that you are a very nice person for reflecting on what you did and considering people’s feelings. Both of us are almost running out of time on Earth, so let’s be careful of our words and attitude toward others. That’s what an experienced older person can do.
Keiko Higuchi, critic