There are times, given the size of our family, when getting everybody onto the same page is like herding a large number of extremely independently minded cats. When it comes down to something Really Rather Important, however,
it is quite amazing how very, well, biddable they can be...
We had only just bidden each other a fond farewell on our weekly Family Zoom yesterday when Katie,
Eldest of the Tremendous Ten grandchildren, messaged to tell me that she planned to put together a series of short videos featuring every member of the family, to be emailed to the nursing home where her Grandad is a Most Reluctant Resident, to wish him a
Happy Birthday today. Given that she was working to a very tight timetable, including at least eight hours of sleep time, it seemed quite a tall order. Would she really achieve compliance in such a short time?
Our family, including our extended family comprising sisters, brothers and Assorted Relatives By Marriage, makes quite a habit of such exercises in compiling Video Greetings En Masse. Usually we are all given a couple of weeks
at least to (I) plan our contribution; (ii) compose our offering (especially when of a poetic nature; and (iii) have a few run-throughs to ensure we both sound eloquent and look (for the most part) presentable. Even so, most of us require a timely nudge or
several from whoever has taken on the task before we get round to submitting our Magnus Opus. I didn’t envy our Katie her job as self-appointed Producer and Director.
I should have known better. This morning she sent over the finished film - complete with no fewer than 23 “appearances” - to the member of staff at the nursing home responsible for activities, with a copy to me. The film starts with the
Welsh Contingent and finishes with Yours Truly, managing to repeat myself three times over a thirty second video, despite having deleted four previous attempts as unacceptable. There are several renditions of Happy Birthday, some more tuneful than others but
all heartfelt. Hazel Bagel plays back to her Grandad one of his favourite jokes: she had been practising her tap dancing, she tells him, waving her tap shoes at the camera: “But I fell in the sink!” Yes, Mr B’s jokes really are that bad.
“Come on, Spurs!” says Young Faris, with the slightly grudging expression of a Chelsea supporter - everyone hopes that Mr B’s team will do the right thing by the Birthday Boy and register a win in today’s FA Cup match.
This morning I took in lots of presents and cards, plus a birthday cake still (as instructed) in its original, unopened packaging. I have to place the bags on the door step,
ring the bell and step back like an Amazon delivery driver. I'm not allowed inside - it's a case of so near, yet so far.
This afternoon, we had a FaceTime booked and I had great expectations of a lovely,
long chat. Unfortunately Mr B appeared to be watching TV and was not exactly as communicative as I had hoped. So long it is since we saw each other - why wasn’t he more pleased to see me, I wondered?
Then suddenly he turned to look at me on screen and said: “It’s amazing, isn’t it, that you’ve been allowed to come in...” and I realised that he actually thought I was sitting, companionably,
next to him, chatting away in my customary fashion while he kept watching the footie on TV.
It wasn’t what I had expected but the more I think about
it the more comforting it feels. Could anything really be better, I am telling myself, than him thinking I am with him, not a few miles away at home?
dear, absent Mr B. It’s not what we would have planned, being apart on your birthday for the first time in at least 54 years. I’m glad that, as far as you’re concerned, I was where I’ve always been.
Right by your side.