So I’m still playing catch up on my 52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge and Week #3 and #4 are family and a family member. Here’s your advance warning – grab a brew as this might be a long one. I am going to stick with tying them together as they go hand in hand anyway. I think in order to appreciate the need for gratitude you have to go right back to the beginning. An abridged walk down memory lane with a little prefaced history into our unconventional family dynamic.
My nuclear family consists of my dad, my little sister and me. My dad is what you’d refer to as a man’s man. In 1983 he was a younger, more virile, man’s man. In his professional life he was a very skilled, much sought after builder and tradesman. In his personal life he had just moved into a new home with his wife and two young daughters. For all intents and purposes he was living the dream. Work hard and play harder. He was a provider. He was running a big site over towards Wendover when, one afternoon going out of his way to give someone a lift home which would take him off his usual route, he was involved in a life changing head on car collision. Lucky to survive, he would find himself spending months in hospital and rehabilitation. He finally came home on crutches still needing physio and help with a long road ahead of him but he had his family around him.
In March of 1984 I was just about 6. My little sister was 18 months and my dad hobbling around adjusting to his life post accident. My mum was also adjusting just sadly in a way none of us saw coming. She up and left, without warning. I mean truthfully I was so young maybe there was warning I just didn’t see it or know what it was. Just I know one of my last, very vivid memories is being stood at the school gates waiting to be picked up and her not coming. Yet another life changing event for my dad. Now alone on crutches with two young girls at a time when single fathers weren’t exactly the norm. He had to fight tooth and nail, under the scrutiny of Social Services and through the High Court in London, to be eventually awarded full custody of us both. But he won and that became our family, just the three of us. Now I know there’s not really that much unconvention in a single parent family but there is when the lone parent is the dad. It also causes a shift in the roles within the family. As I got older I adopted more of a maternal role towards my little sister. As she got older we returned to sisters fighting like cat and dog, but always me with a motherly eye on her. I am 39 this year and she is 35 and I still mother her…or perhaps mither I’m not 100% sure. Our “mum” has had very little contact over the last 30 + years. I could probably count on the fingers on one hand how many times we’ve spoken to her, and even less seen her. By defacto she has given up all rights to be referred to as mum which is why she is Alyson, if she is even referred to at all because honestly she just doesn’t factor into our lives. I mean I know if it was not for her I would not be here but literally that is the only thing she has ever done for me.
All of this brings me to finding weeks #3 and #4 of the Gratitude Challenge easy. I don’t have to put any thought into why I am grateful for my family. I just am. I don’t have enough time to go into why things could’ve been so different for us all but individually and together but we a proof of the old adage that what doesn’t break you makes you stronger. My dad is an epic man. He is funny, charismatic, charming, generous and loving. He is also a stubborn, strong willed, belligerent pain in my arse. I spend equal parts of my day juggling the want to give him a big squidge with a compulsion to throat punch him. Would I change that about him? Of course I bloody would! Who would genuinely say “of course let’s keep all the opinionated stubbornness you can find” seriously right but these things are him and I love him regardless. There is not a day goes by when we don’t laugh about something. Even in the darkest of times and probably strangest / most inappropriate of times we will always find something to laugh about. We have no shame or boundaries. We laugh at ourselves, each other, anyone or anything but I firmly believe if you can laugh with each other and at each other then there is nothing else you couldn’t do together.
So I am grateful to my dad…the half deaf, bouffant white haired, hugely inappropriate old fool. You are the man that all men in my life are measured against.
What do you laugh about with your family?