I’m waiting in the car for my daughter who said she wanted to leave at 9.45. She knows I am never late. Sitting with the engine turning over I stare at the door willing it to open even though there isn’t anywhere I have to be this morning. She emerges with a plastic takeaway tray in which she carries her breakfast.
“Were you a bit optimistic with your times? I say, smiling. “You were early,” she says without looking at me, taking a mouthful of attractive looking buttered toast.
Driving up the road she is telling me about the new puppies they went to see at her uncle’s house. “They’re so cute. Only as big as gerbils”. “I’m surprised you didn’t put one in your bag” I joke. “I didn’t have a bag but I did consider putting one in my pocket”.
A woman is jogging on the pavement towards us and I mistake her for a man. “She’s running in a peculiar way,” I say trying to defend my error. My daughter agrees, “Yes, she doesn’t look as if she’s running for running, she looks like she’s running to get somewhere. Like she’s going to miss the bus or she needs to get her kid out of the road. But not like her house is on fire. She’d be more frantic”.
I laugh. “Yes, that’s exactly it”.
“What is it like to know that I’m so anal about timekeeping? That I am so reliable?”
Chewing a final mouthful of toast she thinks for a moment. “It’s nice. I know that if I’m ready at a particular time I won’t have to sit about waiting”.
“Does it make a difference in a more general way?” I ask.
“Yes”, she says, “Trust”.
“Adam was telling me last night about how he used to count the number of syllables in a sentence when he was at school, and if they weren’t divisible by five he’d feel uncomfortable. Have you ever done anything like that?” I ask.
She makes a scrunched up thoughtful face and says, “I have something like that.”
“If I have to put a specific day in my diary, one that I need to remember or that will be recurring, it has to be an odd number.”
“Good job your birthday is on the 5th,” I say. She smiles. “Hey wait a minute, my birthday is on the 30th.”
I don’t know whether it’s true or to pacify me but she says, “30 is OK, I particularly don’t like numbers with straight lines”.
“So, it would be better if when I eventually die that I do so on an odd number day?”.
“No,” she says, “I don’t want you spoiling odd number days for me”.
“When is Joe back?” I ask.
“Monday I think. His wi-fi signal is poor so it’s a bit annoying. He rang me this morning but it just cut out. We can text but it’s not the same”.
“You could write letters to one another” I offer helpfully.
“That wouldn’t really solve the problem would it Dad? Although it must be nice to receive a letter.”
Encouraged I say. “When I was fifty I sent handwritten letters to my closest friends to tell them how grateful I was to have had them in my life and about the things I really value in our friendship”.
“That’s a lovely thing to do,” she says.
“Yes, it was like my gift to them”.
“Well” she replies, “That’s not really a gift is it?”.
Nearing home I realize that I’ve driven slowly and taken a long way around. She either hasn’t noticed or hasn’t said.
“What are you doing now?” I ask.
“I’m going to the gym”.
Then she asks, “What time are you walking Daisy?”
“Around two,” I tell her, “Why?”
“I’d like to come,” she says hopping out of the stationary car and disappearing into the house leaving the empty crumb filled takeaway tray on the seat.