My son went back into his office this week for the first time in many months.
“Have you got everything?”
Peering into his bag, “Rail pass, laptop charger, wallet, I think so.”
He seemed genuinely excited like he was going on holiday.
The children have been sanguine about time out from the lives they were leading in the old days, but I know it has taken a toll.
I can understand his delight at being able to sit on a train and stare through grubby windows at polytunnels in fields, and then into the sleepy back yards of South London terraces, but I’m in no rush.
One rarely spoken precious gift afforded me by the most treacherous of years is the extra time I have been able to spend with my adult children.
A few weeks ago I saw a post by Tim Urban about the human lifespan.
In it, he points out that most of us spend a disproportionate amount of the total time we’ll ever spend with our parents in the early years of our lives.
Unless there is a pandemic.
“You realize that despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life.”
Since the pubs opened again I have had to ask the children a question I have not needed to ask since last autumn.
“Are you in for dinner this evening?”
I’ve loved not having to ask it.
Boredom has set new behaviours in train that may ebb away, perhaps to be resumed later in life.
My son has started to read, he and his girlfriend have planted vegetables, and they even have a little raised bed in the garden.
Like buying the children a rabbit after they promise faithfully to care for it, I am pretty certain I know who will take responsibility for nurturing the tomatoes into maturity.
The return too of the night-time economy.
On the first Saturday they were out I had forgotten what it was like to go to bed hoping they were OK.
Drunken revellers at 2 am, shouting at friends less than a metre away while they’re staggering home to their beds.
In the morning, a half-drunk can of Stella Artois is abandoned on the wall as the dog and I walk past houses where slumbering heavy-headed bodies lie.
I used to be frustrated at being woken in the small hours by a man arguing with his girlfriend. I’d hear her heels clicking up the road followed first by profanity and then his footsteps quickening after her, but now there’s something strangely comforting about the familiarity of it all.
I have been reminding myself of something I have often said to other parents.
“They are not ours. They are simply loaned to us.”
The beautiful conflict between a part of us that does not want to let them go, and a part that knows it is only when they do that there can be any sense that we might have done what we were supposed to.