We popped down the motorway to my parents’ house yesterday afternoon for some lunch. It’s my mum’s birthday this week, and with father’s day coming up as well, my younger brother had organised for us to get together and cook lunch for the aged parents. Well, actually, he’d organised the lunch because we’ve just found out that my mum has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and we wanted to show some solidarity and make the effort to come and make a bit of a fuss of her (what is it about my family and neurology. My elder brother and his family had to drop out, but my younger brother and his (surrogate) family were there, as were my aunt (my mum’s sister) and uncle.
It was really nice. A couple of glasses of wine and just a bit of general chit-chat over a roast lamb. I know It’s a hoary old tradition and that lots of people do this sort of thing every week, but my Sundays usually revolved around a long run, and lunch is often something to be grabbed at home and eaten in front of a re-run of Modern Family. We also don’t get together as a family anywhere near as much as we might. Mum and dad only live an hour or so down the motorway, but we’ve never really been the cuddly types and I’m generally happy to stay lightly in touch. It’s not that we’re not close, it’s just that we don’t have that kind of relationship. Perhaps this is what happens when you’re sent away to a boarding school at the age of 7 and that this is the kind of relationship with your family that is a direct result of that sort of emotional and physical separation. My mum’s diagnosis isn’t really a shock either. My dad is a doctor and my mum is a nurse, and I think they both had a pretty good idea what was coming before the formal diagnosis, and then my dad managed the breaking of the news to us in the same way as I’m sure he did when he broke bad news to a patient: state the facts and manage our emotional reactions. He did the same thing to me when he told me he had cancer ten years ago. It’s not great news, clearly, but at the same time all of the emotion has been drained out of it. I suppose I’m just the same when I think about my MS… getting upset about it doesn’t do any good.
Anyway. I haven’t seen my aunt and uncle in years, and one of the really nice things about getting older is that – and I know this sounds ridiculous – it’s good to be able to relate to them as people and not just as my aunt and uncle. When you’re a kid, they’re just another adult, aren’t they? They’re not really people in their own right and you’re not really interested in what they like or don’t like. Now that I’m older, it was really good to be able to have a long and interesting conversation with my uncle about beer and comparing notes on our local breweries. As well as a love of beer, we’ve got loads in common: he taught history for most of his life and his politics and world view seem similar to mine. He also has a lovely wry sense of humour. I like him. That’s nice to find out.
I like my parents too. My dad drives me mad, but it’s times like these when you really realise that they won’t be around forever and you need to appreciate them while you can.
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Or, if you prefer
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.
Depressing? Not really. It’s the one thing we can all be sure of, isn’t it?
Carpe Diem and all that shizzle.