Monday, 24 October 2011

saying god bye

I said goodbye to my brother today, not in a terminal way, but in a, I don’t know when I will see him again sort of way. I should be used to saying good bye to him not knowing when I will see him again, because I have been doing it since he was a teenager. At a time when not every house had a telephone, and if they did it would only be used for transatlantic calls for special celebration days and bad news, my brother moved to America. He fell in love with an American girl in his class at school aged about 14, and followed her when her family took her back to Oregon and broke my father’s heart.

As some of you know my mother died when we were all young, Paul, the only boy, but not the youngest, was only four years old; but our dad was determined he would keep his four children together as a family and he worked hard to keep that pledge. We grew up a very close family because of it, and he felt all that hard work had been dashed when my brother decided to follow his heart and leave these shores.

The last time we were all together was in August at our father’s funeral, and I didn’t know then when I would see him again either when he returned home. That visit was bitter sweet, and as lovely as it was to see him the reason he was here was to share a tremendous sorrow that changed our world, which also served to reminded us all that we are now the older generation and we none of us know what our allotted amount of time will be. We are all hovering around the age our grandfather and uncle had been when struck down with heart attacks.

Then a friend with masses of spare air miles offered them up to enable him and his wife to attend our nephew’s wedding in Preston last weekend, and they spent a few days with us here in Cornwall afterwards. Even after all these years he still gets horribly home sick for England and a little bit of him would like to stay, also Lostwithiel has woven its magic in his heart.

There is three years difference between my brother and me and because he was the sibling I got on best with in the later part of our childhood, and despite how revolting he could be, that was the age gap I chose for my children. He has an American wife (his childhood sweetheart) and is the father of four sons and grandfather to three grandsons and that will keep him in the states, he is a loving, kind, thoughtful, funny, handsome, talented, and hardworking man (and he will laugh at me for saying it) and despite him having been gone all this time I miss him everyday he is not here.

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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

eldest sons wedding

I have the most amazing red finger nails and they have been this way for over two weeks now. For the first time in my life I went to have a proper manicure and to have my nails ‘shellacked’ at the ‘Beauty Lounge’. But then it is the first time I have been the mother of the groom too. I had decided I was going to enjoy every single bit of this monumental occasion. I had bought my outfit in Bath on a shopping trip with my sister, and I had my shoes made to match by the shoemaker in St Agnes. I was ready.

Having sons I always knew I would never have the ‘mother of the bride’ experience but I have been so lucky because in my son’s new wife I did feel very much the mother of the daughter-in-law, that sounds so lovely I am going to say it again, my daughter-in-law, I have a daughter-in-law. I never thought I would share the experience of going shopping for a wedding dress for a child of mine, (he may not have been wearing it but it was very much for him too) so I had never wondered what that would feel like, and I have tears in my eyes now as I remember standing in the shop so full of emotion as the dress was selected; I felt so special and privileged, I cried then too. This lovely girl had given me this wonderful gift of helping her choose one of the most special garments she will ever buy; and on her wedding day I helped her put it on. One hears of friends having that special joy with their daughters, and although Kate is not my daughter, it was no less a magic thing.

Two days before the big event my son was every bit my son as he panicked because he had left some important stuff to the last minute. As soon as I arrived up country the day before ‘the Day’ we had the most perfect shopping trip, ever. It was as if someone had laid out the exact things we needed even thought we didn’t know what some of them should be, we were inspired; we got everything that was needed, not only got but were really pleased with; with a hair cut and lunch to boot and time to spare before the shops closed. This was my baby all grown up with a baby of his own, the step he was about to make somehow felt more grown up than anything that had gone before and I didn’t want to miss a moment of it

We all spent the night before at the hotel, and it was decided that my sister and I, with our husbands, would take Lee out to dinner. We chose a pub that served Thai food, it wasn’t the poshest place but the food was very authentic and very good, down to the sticky rice being served in little wicker baskets. The food, the lay out of the place and the atmosphere all reminded me of when Lorna and I had joined Lee for a couple of weeks when he was travelling many years ago, this was when I first noticed my boy was in fact a man and not only capable of looking after us, he did. That was a life changing holiday in all sorts of ways and here we were again with another life changing event before us.

My son and his wife to be had very clear ideas about how their special day should be, what they were doing was very important to them, they were very committed to the step they were taking and they wanted to share it with the people that were close to them. They didn’t want a ‘staged’ wedding, they wanted a celebration; and that is exactly what they had. I took a photo of the bride as she walked up the isle and it is one of the best wedding photos I have ever taken; she looked radiant, her excitement and joy shone out from her face. And who could blame her because waiting for her was this incredibly handsome man who had loved her even before he had asked her out; this man of whom I am so immensely proud. What made it such a family affair is that the ceremony was conducted my brother-in-law, my eldest grandson was the ring bearer and this little three year old took his job very seriously and preformed his duties without fault, he was a star.

If I believed that fate gave us signs on these auspicious occasions then she smiled that day; in between wet miserable days we had one glorious real and proper summer day with the bluest of blue skies and warmth one imagines when thinking of the perfect day. And a celebration should include a feast, a feast were everyone can eat all they want of delicious food until they can’t eat anymore, and we did; and laughter, provided by Luke taking full opportunity to tell stories of their growing up and working together, at Lee’s expense. Children ran around and had a ball, family events need children and they were provided for. There was a piñata for them full of toys, cars, dinosaurs, spiders, clickers, and water pistols, and as the shopping, fell to the ground and the children descended upon it, my eldest grandson stood up with such a look of triumph on his face, with all and only the water pistols in his arms. How I love boys. The only concern was their poor little son who was not feeling too well and was not so happy. And presents, given and received, I had managed to maintain my composure throughout the ceremony but when I was given a bangle with their names and the date inscribed on it for my bangle collection I was unable to hold it together any longer, and I cried.

When I look back on the day I feel I should have talked to more people, but I wanted to remember it all, to store it up to bring out on other less exciting days. The staff at the hotel commented that it was a very relaxed and laid back wedding, and they see a lot. When I went with the bride-to-be to see the wedding organiser at the planning stage, she said how very much in love they seemed, and added she dealt with many many couples, and didn’t always feel that.

When walking to work the day after meeting my husband, I could not feel the pavement beneath my feet, the sun shone just for me, the birds sang just for me, it was as if the world had somehow shifted on its axis, everything was the same but looked and felt different. I know not everyone experiences that in their lifetime but I wanted it for my children, and I believe my son and his new wife had that magic, and the very best of my wishes go with them into their new life together.

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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

friends reunited

People come in and out of our lives all the time, some stay for long periods others fleetingly; with some you are not quite sure how you lost touch and others you know full well what ended your association. What ever the circumstance there are things that happen in you life that make you think of those you have known and you wonder what sort of lives they had, are they happy, have you walked past them in the street ever and not recognised them? This is probably more a generation thing because the young are growing up with social networking sites that link people together and keep them in touch. The first of these, I am sure you all know, was Friends Reunited which is now out of favour. However those of my generation who signed up to see who was out there still get the occasional message from someone who would like to get in touch. Sometimes you cannot remember who these people are, other times it is a blast from the past so intriguing that you are unable to help yourself replying.

This happened to me recently, did I remember him he asks, how could I forget him, he broke my heart. Twice. I find it so interesting that you know almost nothing now about someone who was at one time the centre of your universe. It fascinates me that time passes almost without you noticing, my children are now older, by half again, than we were when we saw each other last. Also as hard as I try to imagine him as an older person, the image that is firmly in my head is that of a very young man. After all there is more of some bits of me and less of others and gravity has done its worst.

The other thing that interests me is that if things had worked out differently, if I hadn’t already met my lovely Tom when reconciliation had been suggested, I would be a different person to the one I am now. The opportunities I have had may not have presented themselves, circumstances may have prevented me from taking them if they had. Then there are my wonderful sons and grandsons, there are no grantees that there would have been other children to love equally. It is the experiences we have that mould us to who we are good or bad, I know I would not miss who I am because the person I would be could not imagine this life I have. I have been lucky enough to have had several careers and learnt valuable life lessons from some amazing people. I would not change it, I have had the most amazing life packed full of interesting chances grasped, and achievements I could not have dreamed of as a young person. We never know were even the smallest decisions we make in life will lead us, that’s what makes it such an exciting adventure!

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