Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Meet the parents

I originally wrote this post when I thought I was leaving the UK for a year, and it's been lurking in my draft folder for months.  As the post I was hoping to publish today is stubbornly refusing to take any sort of coherent form, it's an opportunity to publish what is essentially an extended brag about how ace my mum and dad are!
One of my favourite photographs -
my parents on their wedding day in Johannesberg, June 1976

My mum is the bravest person I know.  She often tells me that she doesn’t know where I get my independent and adventurous spirit, but I know the answer is staring back at her in the mirror.  At the age of 29 she left her family and the country where she had grown up - South Africa - and she and my dad boarded a ship to England.  Due to the political situation, neither of them were able to return for almost 24 years.

She was a stay-at-home mum for my whole childhood; she cooked, baked, encouraged us to be artistic and active and instilled in me a love of books.  As we (my younger brothers and I) got older, she became more and more active in voluntary organisations both local and national, and is now manager of a large charity.  At the age of 44, she left her marriage of 17 years and came out as a lesbian.  She struggled to support three children in the aftermath of the divorce but never let the strain show.  In her 50s she coped with devastating hearing loss, which has left her profoundly deaf and entirely dependent on hearing aids.  She is amazing and the most important person in my life. 

My dad, meanwhile, was on that ship to England too, leaving everything he knew far behind to start a new life and a family thousands of miles away.  And if I admire my mum for having the courage and fortitude to come out in her 40s, I think I admire my dad more for what he went through in those years.  He made huge efforts to ensure he stayed in our lives... but never tried to make us take sides.  When, in a fit of teenage pique, I told him I wanted to go to Manchester with him rather than live with my mum, he very calmly told me that it wouldn’t be a good idea because I belonged with her: quite true, but it can’t have been easy to say.

My mum has supported and cajoled and listened and cared for me for the last 34 years.  She always knows exactly how I’m feeling about anything; knows when I need a kick up the arse and when I need some TLC.  Meanwhile, my dad is the person I will always call first if something goes wrong with my car or my boiler.  He is practical and pragmatic and, in the way of dads, knows everything about everything... apart from how to send a text on his mobile.  They are both incredible people, I am very lucky indeed to have such great parents.

*Update* My dad has let it be known that actually, he does know how to send a text, he just "chooses not to - too fiddly".  He told me this via (of course) text.  So I stand corrected, my dad in fact knows everything.