My poor car is broken. It hasn’t been well since Monday night, when the steering felt heavy as I parked up. Hoping that it was a low revs problem, I tried to drive to work on Tuesday morning, but after about five minutes of optimistic revving, I realised that finishing the twelve mile journey would not be sensible and pulled in at the local service station.
Luckily, the service station is right next to the train station.
So my journeys to work over the past few days have looked a lot like this. It’s autumn cool and misty but with a strong, low summer sun still hanging in there. I’ve enjoyed the cycling and walking part of it, and being able to read on the train (Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness is my book of choice at the moment), although this does add a total of an hour a day onto my journey so not something I could sustain on a regular basis.
Even though my car broke down, Tuesday was pretty cool:
- My manager didn’t mind that I was late and said don’t worry about making up the extra hour.
- I got a lift back home close to my house from my co-worker, who was off with his wife to some function in the north of the county.
- I then got a lift all the way back home from my friend, Kath, who runs the village shop. It’s nice that often around here, it happens that when you are walking around, someone you know will see you and offer you a lift.
- My parents phoned in the evening.
Usually number 4 induces a mixture of boredom and dread. Especially as I am not sure what’s up with my dad at the moment, but he’s taken to wanting to get to know me and my sister more, and expressing regret and that kind of stuff. I’ve always been very cagey about showing how I feel to my family. I always felt that as no-one was really interested in giving me what I wanted, only what I should have, that it was important to guard my feelings closely and protect them.
He’s been wanting to get closer for a while, but I’ve never been ready. I’ve wanted to hold on too much to this need to protect myself. It’s only recently that I’ve started to feel properly like a grown up, and part of growing up is not being imprisoned by the habits of your upbringing any more.
On Tuesday evening, my mum phones, as usual. After a few minutes talking about their holiday, she says my dad wants to talk. My dad never talks on the phone. He never even answers the phone, because it’s never for him. But today he wants to talk, and we get back to the subject of getting closer.
My dad’s aim of getting closer is always weirdly tied in with the fact that one day he and my mum will need looking after. He worries that if we don’t sort out whatever issues we have had as a family, it’ll be miserable for he and/or my mum when it comes to being dependent on me or my sister.
I find this attitude towards life a bit hollow. I’m not sure what my dad likes to do, or what he lives for, or what he wants. Only that his (well, really, our whole family’s) bucket list looks something like this: 1) Be safe. 2) Be secure. 3) Whaddya mean, you want to see more items than just those two???
Usually during these prematurely end-of-life conversations, I mutter that everything will work out fine. Just like everything’s always worked out fine for me, because I’ve felt that I have to make it so. I have this overriding sense of duty, you see, this compulsion for everything to be OK.
But this time I say, “It’s not that I want to avoid the subject. But we’re talking fifteen years at least before you become dependent. And there are lots of things you could do with your life in that time. There are lots of positive things we could do and talk about. It’s not all about working out what is going to happen at the end and making sure that is going to be all right.”
I’ve never said anything like that before. I’ve never been really open about what I want. He said actually, I’d made a good point. We went on to have a really nice conversation for the next fifteen minutes or so, not too intense but open and respectful.
It would be nice to get closer. I would like that too. I wonder a lot whether I am brave enough to do this, because it seems like an overwhelming journey to undertake.