Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dear Mum & Dad

Last weekend a young kid, in between my attempts at small talk about his age and Ben 10, stopped me mid conversation and asked, "What happened?" He raised his index finger to just below my nose. It took me a while to realise there wasn't any unusual deformity on my face; he was pointing, eyes wide with fascination, at the small mole above my upper lip.

It's a legacy I have from my dad, this little mole. Like a lot of things I've inherited from my parents, it's only now that I've really come to realise how much I resemble them in all the right ways. Anybody over the age of twenty can tell you about that strange slow-motion sensation that taps you on the shoulder one day, when you realise your parents are not immortal. The truth steps out from the shadows and you finally see that your parents are people too; people that aren't going to be around forever.

You start paying attention. You learn to ask questions, and you learn to listen to the answers. You learn to be a little patient with them, trying to resurrect memories where they have been patient with you as a child, a teenager, even now. You learn about how they were at your age, who they were, and try to match up that fuzzy hologram to the weightier version of reality that is flesh and bone, and an older version of you.

I think back to times when I was younger, and times not so long ago where the flush of embarrassment and shame would seize me. I was too old to hold hands with my parents in public. I was too old to say "I love you too" on the phone before hanging up. All that mattered to me was my friends, people I wanted to be my friends and protecting all my own insecurities. God forbid they do anything to embarrass me.

These days, there's a new kind of shame that rises up in my chest; a knotted, knowing fist that thuds somewhere at my insides. I wonder if my kids will be like this to me, treat me flippantly like a child after I had raised them and fed them and put them to bed every night for years. I wonder if I will get this karmic payback in the form of the same patronising treatment that I often dish out, brisk answers to questions about computers and directions to the city. Rolled eyes and sharped tongued replies. And I know the answer is yes.

It's only now that this kind of thinking has dawned upon me, that I've taken a step back with slight horror and a shake of the head at myself. It's only now, after my parents have completed a half a century of living that I understand that the ignorance of youth extends beyond political apathy and willing self-involvement; it's there everyday in the way we treat the people who brought us into this world, too. The way we treat our parents tells a story we sometimes would prefer not to have told.

Perhaps it's the natural order of things that due respect is given only after we've become old enough to understand the true meaning of the word. Every family is different, of course; often relationships with parents are riddled with land-mines and trip-wires, issues that bubble over or maybe never surface. This isn't the case with my own parents. They are too good, almost to a fault. They are not perfect people, but in all the ways that count they are perfect parents.

I used to be weird about my little mole, especially when 'mole' became the insult of choice around the playground. As I slide into my twenties I'm growing into my own skin, not letting my teenage standards of norms and expectations dictate how I act or how I am. I've woken up to the store I've put by people I know little in comparison to the value I should place on making it right with my mum and dad. My little mole isn't a sore point anymore, but a reminder that I'm not somebody that came into the world of my own accord; I'm the sum of two people I'm never too old to say "I love you" to in public.

An ode to the parents, you golden oldies, to putting up with us kids all these years.

1 comment:

  1. moley, moley, moley! love your post, you always seem to write what everyone is subconsciously thinking! thanks for sharing sis.

    xxo your fellow mole sister.