Family is a funny thing, something that really is an accident of birth. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it doesn’t but I think most of us could, in honesty, sift through the complexities of our own familial relationships and pick out the good and the bad.
Family is very much in my mind now as, at the time of writing, my father is in hospital being treated for a pulmonary embolism. I’m very blessed to still have him at all – quite apart from overcoming cancer almost seven years ago, it was probably only the thoughtfulness of the lady who comes into clean for him once a week that he is now recuperating; she thought he looked ill and took him into Accident and Emergency, and they quickly worked out that a blot clot – probably a left over from the cancer beating surgery – had made its way onto his lungs.
Unfortunately for me, it is over four hours’ journey to see my father so I see him only intermittently at the best of times, although I call him regularly. I wish he lived closer, but he would never move down south and he is normally comfortable where he is, in the bungalow I grew up in and where he spent most his married life with my Mum. After she passed away, he took several years to pull himself away from melancholy to a healthier state of sadness and resignation, although the wall to wall terrible made for TV romantic comedies are a bit wearing at times.
I loved my parents, but I would never have been able to cope with living with them once I became an adult and went to university (OK, after I became an adult post university!). It doesn’t take long for a point of contention to arise and it is usually something petty. I wonder if it might have been different if I had siblings, and certainly that would have been a major difference in the current situation. My parents wanted more than me, but in the end, I was all they got, and I’ve enjoyed the complete attention ever since. However, at times like this it would have been good to have had someone else to share the load. Do not get me wrong – the Lovely Wife and many friends I have can point out the drawbacks of siblings too, but it has occurred to me recently that my side of the family is dwindling to virtually nothing; apart from my Dad I have an uncle and his family, and some second cousins I know well, but basically that is it. At some point I will be in the situation where, in reality, my family is the one I have married into and most of the ties to where I grew up will be purely memories. It is not something I am looking forward to of course, but I am interested to see whether it changes my outlook on life and how I see then the concept of home, of family and my place in it, and whether my personal experience can be put into good use helping those who are not as far along the path as I am.
For the moment, I have to do what I can for my Dad, and be thankful for the time I have had with him and the possibility that exists for more time in the future. In the end, that is all any of us can do with the people we love, family or not, as we never know when they, or we, will be no longer there. In this, at least, we must not so much live in the moment as love in the moment.