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Parental role reversal feels strangely liberating
I SPENT Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week looking after my dad. And even though it was heart-breaking and frustrating in equal measure, I also found it very – and this may sound strange – comforting.
Dad wasn’t able to do much himself and all I really did was brew cups of tea.
And astonishingly, for so little effort on my part, Dad was ecstatic (as only old salty sea dogs can be), occasionally touching me on the arm, calling me ‘my ‘andsome’ and introducing me proudly to the doctors and carers who visited as “this is my son, ‘ee’s not done bad...”
Yet for the whole of last Monday we barely exchanged two words.
He lay asleep, and I sat beside him, only occasionally lending his arm a gentle squeeze when he woke confused and lost.
It doesn’t sound like much, except perhaps a schmaltzy, daytime made-for-TV movie.
But for me it felt like an epiphany – sitting there for hours, without a sound, not even reading lest the pages of my book wake him, feeling strangely parental.
And of course that’s precisely what was happening – true role reversal without either’s authority or presence annulled.
And boy did it feel liberating.
Indeed, I think the last time I felt that unburdened was an afternoon I spent in Canada’s Yukon territory several years ago, hours from anywhere and continents from anyone.
All I felt was trivial, minor, and so exquisitely unimportant that those typical, day-to-day concerns I had been entertaining... dissolved. Pouf.
Why sitting next to dad as he slept and occasionally woke should trigger such calm and tranquillity in me was revelatory.
And despite worrying that I looked inordinately stupid, I couldn’t help but beam.
I was looking after my dad and he was letting me...
A friend of mine once said something profound (and I don’t believe she even realised it).
She said: “Life isn’t about the bigger picture, it’s about its moments” and even though she couldn’t poach an egg or correctly load a dishwasher, she clearly did soar for a few, brief moments along some higher plane of New Age consciousness.
Which is why it doubtless sounds mad to say I returned to work after three days of consoling and comforting to feel illuminated, unburdened and liberated...
Clearly the geography and environment of this situation is not one you’d want to deliberately create.
But I guess you just can’t be choosy over where and when and why you’re able to stop, switch off and reboot your most primal sense of content.
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