The lad is attacking this graduate scheme with an enthusiasm that has me convinced aliens really are living amongst us.
The Real lad did not spring happily from bed at 5.30am to catch the first of 5 trains for that day. The Real lad would not complete a 15 hour shift – and want to get up at 6am the next day for even more.
The Real lad had a snooze when he did anything taxing that lasted longer than 5 hours. He was a nocturnal boozing party animal who stored sleep for the weekend-a-thon. He was a laughing boy – the high octane joker of his group. He was a tricky wilful toddler who had an Aspergian response to change and a deep violent aversion to travel and shops.
R says that the signs were always there of the man who was to emerge as a leader of DIY teams, spouting HR wisdom and the touchy feely psychobabble that drives sales. And I stop to think and remember.
He’s a clever do-er, our son. An action man. Impressive school grades were his – but all that sitting still and writing bored him. He needs to be on the move.
R says: remember – when he could crawl that was not enough because he could not walk; when he could walk that was not enough because he could not run.
R is right. As usual.
At 18 the lad manages an 11 strong team of people – some of them old enough to be his great grandpa (honest – that bit made me begin to rethink my prejudice against global retail groups – though only a wee bit). Those same people who met him with initial suspicion – but who embrace him now with genuine warmth and respect even though he has had to discipline some. His appraisals beat anything his father or I have ever achieved. He is tipped to be running his own large store by his mid-20s.
And all of this excites him. He is amazed by life itself. He is meeting it all head-on and with a smile on his face.
When he speaks to me now it is as an equal – though also an occasional superior. He has learned more in this last year than I did in 20 years of working. There is a reassuring authority in his assertions. He has his father’s seriousness and capacity for hard work – his deft managerial touch. His occasional piss-artistry he gets from me.
He enervates a room – though can exhaust with a relentless energy. Even in sleep he is restless, consuming calories with a fast burn. And if he sits it is to invade your sofa space – even on an otherwise spacious sofa.
I remember he used to tell clothes and belongings from their smell. Hand-me-downs were betrayed by their scent – that’s Stuartie’s clothes he would say when Jill sent me Arran woollies and jackets which Stuart had out-grown.
I don’t ‘do’ bragging about my wains – I never did. But I have a sudden and new-found desire to hold him out to the world – to say ‘look at this fine young man! How good he is and honest and decent and funny to be around. See how proud I am.’
And at the same time I have an intense and deep sense of loss.
I know I’ve written about how their sudden adulthood surprises you. How you turn away one moment and they are grown. How it all passes so quickly. How my mother and my grandmothers were so poignantly right to say ‘don’t wish them older. You’ll wish away their lives. Enjoy them now. Right now. It all passes so quickly.’
But the sudden realisation of the passage of time and their childhood is like a punch to the solar plexus. It knocks you breathless with the force of all that is gone. All those times that cannot be relived – except to replay in family gatherings where the stories that have gone into the making of them and us are told again, binding us, one to the other. Making us family again and again. Bringing the children still in them out and to the front.
Our Family Narrative built of all the little remembrances. The day Louis bit Megan’s bum and left teeth marks. The day he thumped her on the head with a loosened handlebar which she had tried so hard to fix for his toddler hands. The day Jamie tumbled from the table top where he had climbed to reach the chocolate. The day of Lyn’s wedding when flower girl Megan fell on her mouth knocking out front teeth to be captured forever in photos – a toothless and bloody lipped girner.
e.f. – you made me think. You all did.
This is what matters. This is what makes sense of it all. That we have cared and loved and worked and fought to bring us to moments like this where we can stop for a while and appreciate.
Appreciate. And comprehend what has gone before.
I turn my memories over in my mind like pages in a book that is still to be written and whose end I will have no memory of. They are reassurance and they are vindication. Talismanic in the power they have to transform and to connect.
And because I cannot help myself do otherwise, I wonder where they will lead.