My dear Mum died this year. On the 27th April, to be exact.
I can’t deny that we didn’t always agree and its fair to say that I often had an uneasy relationship with her; in the way that Mothers and daughters often do. But, she was my Mum and I loved her and we had a special bond; also in the way that Mothers and daughters do. And so I mourned her and felt empty in a way I couldn’t comprehend.
My Mum was 87 when she died, “….a good age ” people said. “….a life well lived, ” they smiled. And all this is true. But still, I was not consoled.
And then a strange and lovely thing happened…………………
My Mum and Dad had lived together in a bungalow in Hampshire and now my Dad, at 93, was left on his own. Well…….not completely on his own; my sister Wendy visits everyday and is his official carer. My brother John and sister Carole are not too far from him and there is a plethora of grand-children, all close a hand. But I live in Yorkshire; some 250 miles away. I can’t pop in every day to say “Hello”.
So, after the funeral, I decided that I would phone my Dad every few days, to make sure he was okay and generally keep in touch.
Now, I can hear you saying ” Oh, surely she was already doing that !! ”
But, you see, whenever I had phoned in the past, it had always been Mum who had chatted. Mum was the one who, almost always, answered the phone. In fact, on the rare occasions that Dad answered he would say a quick ” Hello, how are you ?” and then would add, ” I’ll get Mum for you…………. ” and off he went. I sometimes wondered if he didn’t like talking on the phone or even if he didn’t want to talk to me. But I think Dads are often like that; reluctant to interfere; content to get any news ‘secondhand’…….so to speak.
But that has changed !
Now I phone my Dad every few days.
We have no set dates or times; that would feel too much like ‘duty’ ……….too much like a chore. But it works out that I phone about twice a week. Long enough for us both to have garnered a few things to talk about; done enough to fill a conversation. And, oh, what conversations we have ! Its a revelation !
For instance, I have discovered that Dad has been reading my Blog posts and that he actually likes my stories ! He is a wonderfully talented writer, so I am thrilled by his praise.
We chat about a variety of things ……….. about his outings…………..the World Cup………. the rather precarious parking habits of the woman across the road………..
We reminisce about trips we made when I was young. Of skidding on an icy A1 and of the various, ricketty vehicles owned by my Grandad.
We laugh about the time when he used to drive us both to work. I used to apply my make-up in the car on the way and he would warn me of any bumps in the road, as I deftly performed the tricky job of applying mascara and eyeliner, while he negotiated a roundabout.
I have so much that I want to mention in future conversations, too.
I want to ask him if he remembers teaching me to ride a bike. Or if he can recall the time, one snowy Christmas, he rolled back the sitting room carpet so that I could try my new roller-skates on the lino beneath. Or if he remembers taking me to see the film of the Bolshoi Ballet. We traveled to the cinema, in Middlesbrough; bumping over snow-covered roads in a little, single deck bus.
Its as though I have re-discovered my Father ! Found the Dad that I remember from my child-hood. the Dad that encouraged my reading and writing and admired my early attempts at drawing and painting. The Dad that didn’t shout at me when I accidentally threw his Parker pen on the fire, because it was wrapped up in some scraps of paper. The real Dad, the Dad I love.
Our phone calls are long and chatty, with no lengthy, awkward silences, no struggling to think of something to say. It certainly isn’t a chore and I hope he looks forward to our chats as much as I do.
I am very proud of my Dad. It can’t have been easy for him to pick himself up and pull himself together and get on with living his life. It is ‘early days’ yet and I am sure he has his ‘down’ days , when he misses Mum terribly. I know I do. But I feel that something good has come from something sad. And that is rather wonderful, don’t you think ?