Last night, I drove my son James to the airport. He’d been with us for two weeks and his girlfriend, Romy, was with us for the first of those. It had been their first visit to Luis and me, their first visit to Portugal, so was untrodden ground. They both graduated this year and, for them, it was a chance to chill out and for us it was….well…maybe I’d better go back a bit.
I got divorced when James was pre-school, so me as a father is a rather hypothetical concept as he had soon a step-dad, Chris, who, incidentally, I have always had a lot of time for. My role became more like an uncle and, as my job took me to far places then to the continent, I have never been as close to my children as I should have been; send cards, send presents, a bit of cash when needed, you know the sort of stuff. In the case of James, this distance was partly me because he was not told I was gay until he was mid-teens, so I always felt rather sensitive to the fact that Dad’s ‘friends’ were rather more than that. OK, regrets are the past crippling us in the present so time to put things right.
Now I look back on his jorney to adulthood, we never really had much of a chance to talk about things that mattered; it was all more matter-of-fact, he more interested in chilling with his friends and I more interested in the drink in my hand. Such is the way of things in most families, I suspect, now that the evening family dining ritual has faded into memory. Well, here, we had a chance to try to build a bridge over twenty years and the setting was food. Good food. James turns out to be the new Jamie Oliver, only better spoken. Over numerous meals and too many bottles of vinho, I rediscovered my son and found that blood really is thicker than water. How nice to be able to say that you are proud of the way your children have turned out, not that I claim anything more than genetics.
What impressed me about James and Romy was how ‘together’ they were. Not just as a couple, but in their understanding of a world that is a bit alien to me, as an old fart. They have the optimism of the young and the years to make it all happen. Never mind that they are new graduates, and life is tough these days. They understand their world, are comfortable with it, and will mould it the way they want. They can change things and they will. because the future is theirs. They have enthusiasm and the years to do it and I’m happy for them.
I’m happy for me as well, because every parent is content once their children are off on their own, knowing what they want and doing it together. I feel I’ve regained part of myself that I thought I’d lost.
I should have taken twenty years writing this, not ten minutes, but I write it with a smile on my face; a smile that I hadn’t expected and one that will probably stay pasted to my soul.
Come back soon!