I have felt, since being of secondary school age, that I am slightly odd. Yes yes, I am a slightly odd person in personality and character, that I know only too well. It is something that while I am not necessarily keen to encourage, I am okay with. But the context of this oddness stems from my family, my parents. You see, when I arrived at ‘big’ school and became immersed in a larger and more diverse social circle, it quickly became apparent to me that many of my new friends came from what has been commonly called a broken home. I do feel that term isn’t always correct, but the sentiment behind it is understandable. And as I have grown older, diversified my interactions, friends and acquaintances, so too has this feeling of… oddness.
My parents have recently passed their 47th wedding anniversary. Forty-seven! Four, seven! 47 years of being together, in the same building, the same bed each night, the same car on journeys, the same routine while pushing a trolley around a supermarket. Really, it is incredible. Well, I say that, but actually it isn’t. It is fairly normal in our society to dream of that, to intend to achieve that, and it is still what people generally profess when they legally declare their attachment to one another in the eyes of the state and/or church.
My parents aren’t particularly religious, they have no overwhelming sense of duty to anybody or anything other than each other. And while growing up, their relationship seemed one not of lust as portrayed on the big and little screens these days. I rarely saw my parents kiss, nor hold hands. They called each other darling and love, but the tone was almost throw-away, it was habit, the norm.
It wasn’t until I was approaching the grand age of 35 that I heard the first real sign that my parents – who in this day and age have proved to be something of an oddity by being firmly together still – love each other. Properly.
I was sitting in my parents dining room eating breakfast on my own while Mum and Dad were in the adjoining kitchen. The door was closed but the wall is thin. The door thinner. It was a particularly emotional time for my family, hence why I was at home, and I heard my Mum begin to cry. She said to my father, “Thank you for being there for my Ben. I love you, Ian.” They hugged.
I excused myself to myself from the table, because that is what I do when at home, even if there is no one else at the table, I still have to seek permission! And I ventured upstairs to have a private cry by myself. It was the first time in my life I had heard such love between my parents, even though it must have existed and continue to exist for them to continue their wonderful marriage. The emotion got to me, but so did the realisation that I would probably be unable to replicate their feat, their achievement, their love.
I know my family is odd, and I am perhaps odder, but really, it feels normal. Which is odd…