I’m having lunch with my daughter. I am eating the leftovers from Monday and she is in the kitchen making herself something. She calls from the kitchen, “I don’t know how I’m going to eat this without it falling apart”. Moments later she emerges with an impressive looking falafel and hummus wrap. “I’m having a vegan lunch” she announces.
Finishing my food I take my plate out into the kitchen to find what I always find. The chopping board is strewn with the detritus from her extensive preparation. Lettuce offcuts, bits of pickled chilies, a sticky pool of hummus, dirty knives and spoons. Without thinking I start to clear it away.
When I’ve almost finished I call back to her, “Why am I doing your clearing up?”.
Her reply is muffled by a mouthful of wrap, “I dunno”.
“I always seem to do your clearing up. Why don’t you do it?”
“Because I’m eating,” she says.
“So, if I left it for you to do you’d do it would you?”
“Yes, of course, I would.”
I realise I have no reason to believe this isn’t true. Her mother doesn’t clear up after her and, in fact, it is a source of frequent conflict between them. It comes second only to the constant reminders to sort out the washing which sometimes ends in slamming of doors and sometimes in tears, on either or both sides. The only thing that is generally reliable is that the washing remains unsorted. As for me I mostly tidy mess where I find it. I also like washing up.
“I do this a lot for you and your brother,” I say sounding as if it’s a burden but at the same time aware that it is one I have assumed. “Why do you think that is?”
“Because you want me to get back to revising?”
“No, I don’t think that’s it”
“Because you like washing up? I don’t know. Dad, don’t read too much into it”
I snap back. “I am trained to see more into things. Perhaps I need to see a therapist. Although I’m not really in therapy at the moment”
“What about the old guy?” she asks.
“Kenneth. Do you mean Kenneth?”
“Well, you can’t just call him ‘the old guy’. It’s really disrespectful”
“How old is he?” She asks.
“He’s 83,” I say. “I haven’t seen him for a while. To be honest I was worried that he was beginning to get dependent.”
“Your therapist was becoming dependent on you?” she asks with incredulity I find uncomfortable.
“Yes. He seemed to want to keep our sessions going even though I had told him I wanted to stop. It was very hard. I felt like I was disappointing him. I hate disappointing people. I think I really needed to talk about it.”
“It would be tricky to talk about that with your therapist wouldn’t it?”
“Yes, it would. I don’t like upsetting people.”
Getting up from the table she joins me in the kitchen just as I am clearing down the work surfaces and putting the dirty cutlery in the sink.
Grinning she holds her plate out to me and says, “Clear that up for me will you?”