The weekend just gone was spent at an 80th birthday party in the north-west of England, with elderly relatives and (or maybe including, these days) my parents. It was enjoyable enough, although our presence as technically only friends of the birthday gentleman was felt more keenly around the younger attendees; the older generation, in comparison, has internalised the idea that we’re essentially if not technically close family.
Until I was in my teens, almost all of the social events I attended were family ones: so many evenings spent in flyblown workingmens’ clubs and sticky, smoky pubs; with tabletops like big copper coins, dark-brown woodwork, and batik-print carpets; soggy, disintegrating beermats and even soggier pump towels.
Eventually, I grew old enough to go out on my own, and I began to spend as much of my time as I could with schoolfriends, university chums, labmates, and new co-workers. Now, though, I find I want to return – in moderation, at any rate – to the bosoms of the aged p’s, carving out time spent with them where we can, holidays and finishing early, to grab a drink here and a meal there.
I never expected to feel this way about close family. I had written that kind of relationship off as a bad idea, along with nostalgia for my birthplace and gloomy, pining heartbreak for unsuitable ladies. But while I was growing up, I didn’t pay attention to the people dear to me who were growing old; some were even growing gone.
Only now am I starting to realise what I missed, and who I missed, in those in-between years: not the smartest; not the wittiest; not the loveliest; not the prettiest; but the people who love me and are loved by me, though I might sometimes forget to remember.