I went to see Mum on the way to football last night. She’s recovered well from the recent operation on her ankle and – although she’s presently walking with the aid of a frame – the plaster comes off her leg in three weeks and she’ll be better able to get around than she has been for years.
All things considered, things have been pretty good between us over the last few years. I say “all things considered” because my relationship with my parents was always difficult. In fact, difficult is something of an understatement… when my father was terminally ill in hospital a few years ago I went to see him, seeking a reconciliation after an estrangement that had lasted six or seven years. He sent me away with the words “You’ve never been a proper son, so don’t try to be one now”. He died shortly afterwards, and the ambivalent feelings towards him from which I seem unable to escape have been a constant in my life both before and since. Not necessarily an issue that anyone else would be aware of, but one that nags away in the shadows nonetheless.
Yesterday, Mum wanted to talk to me… to explain that – even though it might not seem like it sometimes – she loves me as much as she does my brother and sister. I didn’t ask for that conversation to take place but it was the culmination of a few painful exchanges this week. And I was asking myself, as I lay in bed in the early hours this morning, why a guy of 47 is still seeking answers to questions that stretch as far back as his childhood. I know I’m not unique in this respect, but I find it unsettling. As if it's indicative of some kind of failure in my life.
Sometimes, I try to analyse the way I am with my own children, and to determine whether the mistakes my parents made with me are mistakes that I’m now repeating myself. It’s a useful benchmark, I guess, albeit a negative one. And I know that being a parent is never easy, and that it doesn’t really get any easier. Maybe all that really matters is that your children know you love them.
And maybe that’s what Mum was hoping I'd understand last night.