The Easter Truce

My family is a little difficult these days. My youngest brother is overstaying his welcome at home. My younger brother has returned home (nearly aged 30) because his rental situation hasn’t gone smoothly. This time last year my parents were looking forward to having an empty home. It was a bit sad for them, but it was time for them to enjoy having the house to themselves again.

How quickly things change.

They call us the boomerang generation, Somethings goes wrong and we’re straight back. My brother had a job and a relationship. The relationship broke down, and next thing he was back home. My other brother had a job. He lost it and is now back to square one. He came back home too.

Both my sisters have moved out for good. And I’ve been gone for 9.5 years now, having left multiple times previously due to university. But we always come back.

Easter had never traditionally been a time I would come home to see the family. There was no need to, as I was always here there and everywhere with work. But when that all fell apart last year (I will never forgive the way they treated me, so called Catholics) it’s meant visits are now very few and far between. So much so that I can say it has been August Bank Holiday, Christmas/New Year, and now this Easter.

I am somewhat glad though. The situation is fraught. My youngest brother and my eldest nephew are thick as thieves, and get up to all kinds of trouble. Weed, joblessness, and a bad influence on one another. They stay up late, they get up later, they make bullshit excuses for things not going right, and the nephew has a terrible victim complex.

So we just try not to talk about it. Mum and Dad threaten to sell the house, which would be sensible but sad. I feel like they’re being hounded out of their own home, and by getting rid of it will make it incredibly unlikely we’ll ever have such family get togethers again. They are the hub to our spokes. Without the hub, we will end up going all our own ways.

So I try to value these moments, fraught though they can be. We’re all adults now, used to our own space, but some people are not very good at sharing it. Some people behave like we should all be happy with their noise or other late night antics. I try to forget about it for now.

The last few days have been nice. J and I travelled up on Thursday evening after work, and have had a busy day (Friday) which was lovely with the young nephews. We went on a tram, and the middle of the second crop of nephews seems to have taken an attachment to J and me. Which is strange, as they don’t know us really. They have always been a bit distant and strange. But they are getting better. Except the oldest of the second crop, who wants to be a YouTuber. Says it all about modern life…

Saturday we then spent time with my nan and an uncle I haven’t seen since Christmas either. That was good, actually, surprisingly so. We managed to just chat and enjoy each other’s company. I managed a cup of tea and two shortbread. They were nice too. After that we all went out for a family meal. Nowhere special, but it didn’t really matter. It was tiring and occasionally stressful when the arguments began over the order process, but it was good overall. We then came back to the house, where we sat around the fire outside. It was quite relaxing, though the smoke was a bit overpowering…

Today we’ve had minor Easter plesantries. Hot cross buns, boiled eggs, coffee. Sunday dinner currently being made, which is good as it keeps J occupied. He seems to like a roast. I couldn’t care less, but free food made by someone else is right up my street! And again, it’s the occasion. The increasingly dwindling few opportunities to see family members and semi-catch up. Because we don’t really. We talk about old times and endless old jokes. We talk about Netflix. We don’t really talk about lives and our futures. That’s difficult. It’s not what we siblings do.

Sadly tomorrow it must come to an end. J and I will once again have to make the hundreds of miles trek, after depressingly sitting and consuming yet more coffee but maybe only toast this time, since the hot cross buns have run their course. It will then be back to work, and back to getting stressed about all the things I haven’t done, and all the things that have happened which shouldn’t have, and all the things that I really wish would happen but won’t. 7 days a week, until the next break.

The truce is nearly over, but I’m glad it’s happened.

Looking Into A Dying Man’s Eyes

J had some more bad news recently (it’s been one thing after another this year). He has looked after the IT needs of a lovely old couple for the best part of a decade now. I didn’t know them, but J was very fond of them and they have always been extremely generous, both in hospitality and financially. I know that can colour perspectives, but I was prepared to believe him on all fronts.

The bad news was that the husband in the couple had serious heart failure and would be dead within weeks if not days. This phone call came direct from the poor dying man, and it really shook J up. J panicked and said we must go and see them. I wasn’t so sure as I thought I wouldn’t want to be around with family etc. You’d just feel in the way, surely?

A couple of weeks later and A was still with us, and J was getting more and more anxious. We agreed we’d go and combine it with a trip to see J’s mother’s grave, an annual ritual which, whilst painful, seems to give J some comfort and grounding. But as a twofer in grief, I really wasn’t looking forward to it.

We seemed to drive for hours that day. We went and visited A and his wife. His wife was indeed really hospitable and kind, somehow managing to look after us whilst doting over her dying husband. Poor A could barely speak, and conversation was impossible. He’d only just gone like this, said A’s wife. I became depressed that I’d delayed things because if we’d come before J would have had a proper chance to speak to A for the last time. It wasn’t to be, and instead we sat there awkwardly chatting to A who would briefly respond sometimes with a flicker of acknowledgement, occasionally with a smile, but more likely a look of pain.

It was horrifying. Looking at a man who knew he was dying, in severe pain and clearly nearly at the end. We tried to keep things light and normal; it was anything but.

We walked around the village on our own talking about it, feeling guilty that we could have come sooner but didn’t. It turns out the family weren’t there, so that wasn’t a problem. It’s a lovely village, but it felt odd to be out exploring whilst a man sat dying, and it was bitterly cold. So we went back. His wife made us something to eat – a spot of normality for her – and we went back to sit with A.

As we talked for the last time and said our goodbyes A managed a smile through significant strain and pain. It felt like something you’d see on film. He seemed to have made a real effort to acknowledge us, and smiled when J darkly said “See you again soon!”.

I couldn’t keep it together at that point, I had to leave. I just kept thinking how awful it must be to be sitting there in so much pain, knowing you are dying, knowing you’ll never see anyone again. Death. The finality. The shock of it all. It was too much. Once we were out of sight I cried and hugged J, who himself seemed sad but there was not much emotion showing. He never does. I didn’t even know this man, it was the first time I’d ever seen him, and I felt sick with grief and anguish about how awful and cruel life is.

We left, and I was glad to. I felt awful about leaving his wife to deal with him on her own, but she wanted it to be that way. She wanted A to die at home. I wondered whether she would be lucky enough to have the same fortune once it’s her turn. Who would look after her?

Life is truly pointless. We get moments of greatness, far too many moments of sadness, and a massive great spattering of humdrum boredom everywhere. It actually seems cruel to be alive at times. I often think having children is actually inflicting great pain on the child. It’s unfair of an adult to do that…

It’s been mentioned many times since, and now J has gone to the funeral and I’m looking after the office on my own. Mercifully it’s been quiet, but I know he’s having a tough day…