I’m getting older. There it is, I said it. I’m. Getting. Older. By the time you have read this I would have lost at least 10,000 more hairs. It feels as if I am on roller skates going down a hill in San Francisco at break neck speed; time seems to be flying by without a moment to take stock. I just hope there are some soft crash barriers at the bottom of this hill otherwise it’s going to get messy.
I have developed an unerring ability to fully reflect on my life at 4am and go through every scene with an overwhelming sense of regret. Regret for mistakes I’ve made. Regret for decisions I have or haven’t taken. I remember it all with shocking clarity and I feel incredibly saddened by my attitude towards these memories. Happy days… Of course 4 am is the ideal time to do this as I lie there waiting for Moo to begin her daily catalogue of shouted demands… Never underestimate the importance of being picked out of one’s cot so one can check on all the toys that have recently been thrown OUT of one’s cot.
Ageing isn’t a surprise of course. It hasn’t just snuck up on me. I wasn’t able to do a one handed handstand yesterday only to find that today I can’t even touch my toes. I can you know. Touch my toes… No, age is now a concept and an actuality that is ever present in my mind and, it seems, in the conversations I have with my wife. I guess the fact that next month I am 40 has something to do with it but I think it lies more in the fact that we (my wife and I) spend a lot of time discussing the fact that we feel like old parents. We tried for 4 1/2 years to get Moo so if we’d had her back then, then by now she would be at school! We keep counting time like this. Like an abacus of years that we can slide left or right and ruefully account for things that might or might not happen.
‘When Moo’s 20, I’ll be 60!’
‘What if she doesn’t get married until 4o? I’ll be 80 hobbling with her down the aisle!’
‘How will I keep up with her when she’s 10 and I’m 50!’
‘I don’t really see myself as a scary threat to any suitors when she’s 25 and I’m 65’
Every person on Tv; every interview with a parent on the radio, in a magazine, that we meet even – is always followed by a discussion about how old or young they are. It’s almost obsessive. We have a friend that has 3 children and is in her 20s. Her kids will be finishing their GCSEs (or whatever they will be called then) when she is my age. HOLY MID-LIFE CRISIS BATMAN!
I have an excellent in-built ‘Don’t be a twat monkey’ alarm. Always have had. I am by far my biggest critic – and I have many so, yes, you should be impressed. I know only too well that I am wrong in the way I see things. I can hear my own cosmic angels shouting from the wings their stage directions about how I am missing the here and now. That I am creating this dense fog that is blurring my enjoyment of the moment I am in. But, perhaps I am thinking about age so obsessively – focussed in on it like an unbalanced constant stream of consciousness – because I know I have to rinse my mind clean of it. Dive in completely and get it done.
I know what I have to do. I know there are things I can change and things I can’t. I am even old enough, and wise enough, to know that most of the things I can change I shouldn’t. Every single time I look at Moo I am reminded of the absolute, vital, breath taking importance of the ‘Right now’. Sometimes it’s too much. Sometimes, looking at her and seeing her explore and discover with such unencumbered abandon actually scares me. I can’t let my focus on the future ruin any moment I have with her. And so I save it for the times when she is asleep and I am alone. Perhaps that’s why, even when I am exhausted and she is at her worst, as soon as she is asleep I miss her so terribly.
There is a song by the Cinematic Orchestra called ‘To Build a Home’ that has the lyric –
And I built a home
I am the home that I am building for Moo. I am a part of the place that is safe and fun and happy. A brick in that wall. Everyday, in every way I seek to better myself to make sure I can be the best person I can for her. Right up until my last breath I will do this and I will constantly give myself a hard time about it too. This is the role of the Father. I will not give up on myself or seek excuses, or fall into cynical patterns of behaviour, or get staid in my opinions on things, or let myself become weak. I will work and work and work to be the home Moo can always come back to and be proud of. And I will love every single minute of it. Right then and right there. In that all too brief present. As the great Ferris Bueller once said –
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”