A good friend of mine lost their Dad this week. ‘Lost’ is a euphemism of course. And it’s not a very good one. If someone is lost, there’s always the hope that they will be found.
It’s so hard to know what to say. Nothing seems quite right. I try to imagine what I’d want people to say to me. What might help me to process the unthinkable. But my brain just won’t go there.
Parents are supposed to always be there. Waiting for us to call and rant about some trivial aspect of our lives. Of course, our rational minds know that no-one lives forever. But something primal tells us that the rules won’t apply to us or our families.
My Dad, the legend.
My own Dad is a complete liability. He talks too loudly about inappropriate subjects in public. He gets annoyed if a stranger breathes the wrong way. His idol is Nigel Farage. But I love him to the ends of the earth (Dad that is, not Nigel Farage, he can jog on).
He has always been my protector. When I was at primary school he gave Katie Phillips the nickname “pig-face” to cheer me up when she tried to steal my best friend. She was always showing off her fancy new roller-skates when I still had those crap blue plastic Fisher Price ones.
Actually, thinking about it, why didn’t he just get me some new bloody roller-skates?! I’ve just realised that he’s the one who taught me to be a bitch! Luckily my Mum is the kindest person in the world, thus rescuing me from a lifetime on TOWIE.
When my teenage skin was horrendously bad and I wouldn’t leave my bedroom without crying, he paid £100 for a ‘miracle treatment’ (which, of course, didn’t do anything at all. Restricting the Doritos would have been the better option). That was a lot of money to our family. I remember him cuddling me tight and telling me he’d do “anything to make me happy again”.
The missing piece.
My parents still live back in Essex. Despite the fact that I send them Rightmove links every 10 minutes, they haven’t (yet) decided to come and join us in beautiful Devon. I think they’re still holding out for Hollywoods nightclub in Romford to reopen or something.
I wish they would though. I miss them everyday. Not just because I could use some help with my crazy kids. Although an opportunity to visit the toilet alone would be most welcome, what I’d really like is just to have them near me. When we moved to Devon, leaving them was the biggest wrench of all. I’m still in no doubt that we made the right decision. We have a much higher quality of life, the children are so happy and the future looks bright. But there’s always the nagging feeling that I left something behind. Something very important indeed.
The circle of life.
Once you have children yourself, you see your own parents in a whole new light. You think about what life was like for them when you were young, what they sacrificed and how much you took them for granted. Just like your own children do now. And as they get older, you find yourself wanting to take care of them, just as they took care of you.
This symbiotic relationship is exemplified by my 96 year old Nan and my 21 year old mother.
Side note – look, clearly she’s not 21 but if I write her real age she won’t bring me any more lemon drizzle cake when she visits so just go with it, OK?
My Nan, once a matriarchical figure, ruling the roost of her 4 children and 9 grandchildren is now almost toddler-like. She relies on Mum for almost everything. My Mum must call her at 8am on the dot everyday or all hell breaks loose. She doesn’t like sharing Mum’s time or attention, just like my 4 year old with me.
But my Mum doesn’t object. Because, despite Nan’s curmudgeonly ways, she is still here. And I know that Mum is grateful for that every single day.
None of us know how long we’ll have our parents with us for. Most of the time we’ll bury our heads in the sand and try not to think about it, lost in the mundanity of paying bills, sorting socks and mowing grass. But every now and again we’ll receive a sharp reminder of life’s fragility. And we’ll remember that every day we spend with them is something to be treasured.