Some days you remember and others kind of burn into your memory so that you can almost smell the air and feel whatever it was you were feeling that day; excitement, dread, laughter, anticipation – more than just a recollection but something tangible and alive.
My parents wedding anniversary came between Christmas and New Year and I knew I would need to take them out as Gail and I had done every year. It was always a slightly odd experience, restaurants are in that post-Christmas, pre-New Year lull and the atmosphere always seem full of ennui and resignation. We’ve had some nice meals during that time but the ambience was always strange; half-empty restaurants with over-attentive waiting staff. I can’t imagine what circumstances would cause you to choose that time for a wedding.
That was a day for dragging myself through; celebrating anything was hard enough but, I was struggling with the fact my parents were alive and together while Gail had gone and I was alone. Worse, they seemed completely incapable of providing any support, verbal or otherwise, pretending almost that Gail’s absence was because she’d had something else to do and they might see her next time. I felt awful about it, but I found it difficult being around them and their presence annoyed and upset me.
To help me I enlisted the help of my daughter and she proved to be a Godsend even suggesting a suitable venue; a country pub that my parents often went to when they were both younger and my father could drive. Apart from the anniversary, the meal would be a memory trip to one of their old haunts.
I drove them through the Essex countryside on a typical, cold, grey, miserable winter day, them in the back and the seat next to me screaming in its emptiness. I couldn’t speak, had nothing to say that wasn’t going to end up in a cry of anguish before my mum, rather surprisingly, asked me if I had the tracks I put on the Advent Calendar for Christmas Eve and Day.
Neither of my parents had any conception of what I did on the web; they knew I’d made a small side living from part of it, but they just couldn’t grasp the meaning of blogs or the fact that people all over the world could look at something I might produce to primarily amuse myself. I must have mentioned the songs before though and, of course, I had them on my iPlayer in the car so I played them.
It was an inevitably huge mistake; hearing them I just welled up, choking back racking sobs and wiping my eyes as I tried to drive. I was on a small country road, I couldn’t stop so I just had to fight it back. It was awful. As the songs finished, my dad said – I’m assuming in an embarrassed way because that is what he’s like “It hasn’t changed at all round here, has it?”. I could tell from my mother’s terse “No” that even she was shocked by the insensitivity. “The songs are lovely” she said “But you shouldn’t play them when you’re driving”
I wanted to dump the car in the nearest field.
30th December is my parents wedding anniversary. An astonishing 68th with my Mother in December ’18 being 88 and my Father 90.
I need to discuss having parents who are living with some 35 years Gail will never see. Your head goes to dark places. Perhaps not today…