It’s been a busy, successful weekend in our household. Archie and Martha had their end of season football presentations where they were awarded a medal each (now most prized possessions and must not, under any circumstances be touched by smallest, noisiest, grumpiest little sister).
I realised that one of the dad’s I have stood next to to cheer on our boys every Saturday morning was an old classmate of mine for a number of years from the age of 9. I have to come to the conclusion that it is probably because I have not aged particularly well and he has aged too damned well (was quite geeky at school and now very handsome) that we did not twig sooner. It was only his surname which made me question him, after 2 years of wondering.
The other lovely things to report are that Archie had a tennis tournament yesterday, only the second one he has ever done – and he won it! He kept calm throughout and absolutely smashed every match, coming away the deserved winner. I was very proud and quite emotional. And, on top of all that, my lovely big brother ran the London Marathon yesterday, achieving a time of 3:33, a bloody fantastic achievement and I am super proud of him too.
It was as Hubby and I were tidying up after dinner last night that I realised I never won anything when I was a kid. I was pretty good at most things and was picked for the sports teams at school and I played tennis with my family. I rode horses from a young age and was competent at that too. I was also pretty good at music, learning the violin and the piano and doing well in my theory exams….but I never won things. I always came close. I was always in with a chance, but I never seemed to come away with the trophy.
My children, on the other hand seem to be out-doing me on every front. Martha swam her 100m front crawl when she was just 3, achieved her 200m badge when she was 4 and swam her 800m badge at age 6. Now Archie has won his first tennis tournament at 9, when I am still waiting for my first win at age 40!
The one thing I do remember doing well was my cycling proficiency. In fact, some of the kids at our primary school were doing their tests last week and it brought back my small success. A boy at school (no, not the newly reacquainted Mike) and I got top marks in our cycling proficiency and so we ended up in the local paper, proudly showing off our certificates. I was then contacted by some woman by letter, calling herself Amanda asking for a pair of said boy’s dirty knickers and that I had to tell him to meet “Amanda” at a phone box in the next town. I thought it odd at the time and mentioned it to him in passing in the school corridor, but neither he, nor I saw anything overly worrying in it. He shrugged at me and ignored the message, thank God! The letter got binned and I never mentioned it to my parents (I was embarrassed that it had talked about worn knickers and that it was therefore a bit rude). I got a visit by some police officers about a year later asking if I’d ever received a letter from a local paedophile who had been targeting children who were featured in the local press, the articles usually gave information including full names and addresses, so we were traceable. The only award or first prize I ever got and it very nearly turned into a bloody disaster! That’ll teach me to win stuff!
I called Mum last night, wanting to let both my parents know about Archie’s success and wanting to check in to see how the day had gone for my dad. Mum was distant, he said. Not having a very good day, he said. Wanting to go home, he said.
She came on the phone and was very quiet, whispering her jumbled thoughts to me. I couldn’t hear her, couldn’t make out anything she was trying to say so I ended up talking over her in my overly chirpy, overly happy, overly bright and rather annoying voice. “Archie won a tennis tournament today, Mum,” I told her. “He’s done so well.” It was then, for a brief moment she sounded like Mum again. She was delighted to hear of his good news and was distracted from her inner demons for a very short while. I asked her if she had heard from my brother, and again, she was perky and bright in her response. I ended the call before she could revert back to the new mum again. Before she started to whisper her fears and her conspiracies at me.
It’s so bloody sad. The old mum, my real mum would have been so overjoyed for both Archie and my brother. It is very likely that she would have come down to visit this weekend and would have come to the tennis tournament to support my boy. I ran the London Marathon 11 years ago and my parents came down then to support me, standing for hours at the side of the road waiting to cheer me on, proud of me, proud of the challenge I had set myself and proud that I achieved it. If, in my alternate reality my parents hadn’t been with us this weekend I am sure they would have made the trip to London to watch my brother achieve his goal. She would be calling the relatives, drumming up support for him and his fundraising. She would have sent Archie a ‘well done’ card, or a wee gift to let him know she was thinking about him and proud of him. Instead, she manages to muster a few positive words and then I am too scared to continue the conversation to hear anymore.
Today is worse. Dad rated it a 4/10 this morning when I called. She is wandering and wanting to go home. Agitated and anxious and all he can do is stay away from her and try and keep her safe at the same time. She came on the phone and whispered at me for about 2 minutes, but not one word was decipherable. I asked her a few times to try and speak up but she didn’t listen or didn’t hear me. She ended the call this time, with an “Okay?” I have no idea what she was asking me, but I answered in the affirmative. Perhaps she thinks I have agreed to go and get her and take her home. Perhaps she has asked me to call the police. Perhaps she has just told me she will take a knife to the man there. I bloody hope it was something banal like the weather (those white balls were due a few days ago, apparently) and nothing worse. I hope my dad is succeeding in keeping things calm today. I hope he is succeeding in getting some enjoyment out of his day.
Success is relative isn’t it? Perhaps other girls at school thought I was successful in sport and music – I may have never felt like I won anything, but maybe my achievements would have been winning to some. I am sure my brother is delighted with his 3:33 marathon, but I bet there is a part of him thinking already about doing it next year and trying to get under the 3:30 mark. There will be many many people who watched the runners yesterday who could or would never complete a marathon in 7 hours, never mind 3:33. Success for my dad used to be saving a life as part of his job, delivering a baby safely in an emergency situation, being at someone’s side at the end of their life, helping them and their family get through death peacefully. In more recent years it was perhaps winning a golf competition, learning a new dance at dance class, creating his stunning garden. Now though, it is just about getting through the day without too many hiccups. It is managing to get out and walk the dog for half an hour without my mum trying to leave the house, wandering up the road, or calling the police informing them of an intruder (my dad). It is about making sure my mother eats and sleeps and takes her tablets. It is about planning all the meals for the week ahead and making sure he has done the shopping so he doesn’t have to leave her too long on her own. Success for my mum is no longer her culinary creations, or her dancing ability. It is no longer about her achievements as a mother or a granny. My mum’s successes are no longer measured by how fulfilled and well-rounded her children and grandchildren are. It is now judged on whether she has put her clothes on the right way. It is about whether she slept well or has eaten well. It is about whether she has remembered to turn off the hot water tap and whether or not she has smiled that day.
For both my parents, success is no longer the big things, or things to make them happy. It is no longer about tennis tournaments or marathons, cycling bloody proficiency tests or music exams. It is simply about survival.
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