Everyone who has ever lost someone they love will probably know what I mean when I talk about those conversations you wished you could have had. Sometimes these are really big things - like saying you're sorry, when your last words were spoken in anger - or 'I love you.' when it wasn't put into words. Those are the ones that can haunt people and, I have to say, the ones that books are often built around.
Some conversations are not so momentous, but still bring an ache to the heart. At the moment a Hydrangea is flowering - magnificently - in my garden, and every time I look at it I think of my mother. And wish I could show her how well it is doing.
I bought it as a small plant about five years ago. I don't remember where, but from the colour, I'm guessing it was from an RHS Flower Show. I kept it in the garden for two years and both years it struggled- the new fresh leaves being eaten by slugs and snails before they could develop. It hung on, as a set of stalks, and broke my heart every time I looked at it. In desperation I asked Mum if she would give it a temporary home for the summer on the window cill outside her flat, in the hope that it might grow enough there to defeat the predators. She did, and it thrived. She died that September, but the plant had done what I hoped and beaten the slimy, hungry bullies. It's beautiful now, and I wish so much that she knew that our plan worked. Every time I look at it, I think of her.
The conversation I never had with my Dad is more complicated. Like many of his generation he never spoke much about his war experiences, but I knew he had been in Dunkirk, then North Africa and finally Italy. He died before I ever traveled to Italy, so I never got to ask him about the places that he might have seen that I had now visited. All I have is a handful of old photos. I'm trying to piece together his war record, as I want to use it in a book - and give a second life to those old photos. It's coming together, but it's a slow process. It would have been so much easier to ask him.
Neither of those conversations is momentous, but they are still a source of a small ache of regret. You can never say everything you want to and I have no regrets over the big things. But if it's in your mind then say it, or ask it, if you can - you might not get another chance.