I have always been the type to harbour Great Expectations. This is both a matter of pride and of regret. Not necessarily in that order.
When my Foursome were littl’uns, arriving home from school with the thrilling news that they had come second in the class in some subject or another, I was always fulsome in my praise, ever ready with a congratulatory hug, a kiss, the offer of
a hot chocolate to celebrate. After which, the unforgivable question would simply slip out, unbidden through my lips: “Who came first?” I would hear myself ask. A clear case of Poor Parenting, if ever you heard one. It didn’t mean I valued
their achievement any the less - just that I needed a bit more information to put their success in context. Or maybe, then as now, I was just nosey.
of the Darling Daughters is always urging me, her sister, her off-spring and anyone else who might care to listen, to “manage your expectations.” When the first Lockdown introduced all parents (and quite a few grandparents) to the strange concept
of home schooling, the Middle of the Darling Daughters threw herself into the challenge with her customary zeal. Along with copious charts, timetables and fun activities for the Rascally Trio. Like her mother, she was full of Great Expectations - and consequently,
not completely unexpectedly, extremely happy, in the latter months, when the Trio qualified for school as the children of two key workers....
I was thinking about
this whole business of managing expectations when the doctor called to give Mr B a quick check over on his return home. Yes, indeed, Mr B is back where he belongs and it is just the very best sight to look over at his armchair - empty for the last two months
- and see him grinning back at me. It is true that his delight at being back here with me is not completely undiluted; I haven’t suddenly turned into One Who Can Do No Wrong. Which is a pity but serves me right for having Great Expectations.
The main problem is that in my head I had convinced myself that once he was home everything would be back to normal, just as it had been before he was taken so ill and whisked
off to hospital. I hadn’t bargained, for a start, for the invasion of an army of health professionals - two carers in the morning, two in the evening, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, all part of something called the Regaining Independence
“What goals do you want to set yourself?” a Bright Young Thing asked Mr B. He looked at her as if she was from another planet. I wanted
to explain that the only goals Mr B is interested in are the ones that Spurs put in the net but that wouldn’t have been playing the game. Or, at least, not the same game....
The friendly doctor didn’t talk about goals. Instead he told us, kindly, to manage our expectations. For every week a patient spends in hospital, he explained, it takes at least a month to regain the ground lost. We need to be kind to ourselves,
celebrate small successes, take no notice of the occasional, inevitable setbacks. Rome wasn’t built in a day, he didn’t quite say. I have taken his wise words to heart and will remind myself of them whenever I need to which, being me, may be rather
Tomorrow we are celebrating Christmas Day, the festival which poor Mr B missed out on, confined to a hospital bed on the Big Day. The large beef joint (corner
cut top-side) has been removed from the freezer and is gently defrosting on the draining board. I have obeyed Mr B’s specific instructions and today purchased parsnips, Yorkshire puddings and hot horseradish sauce. I thought we would have to forego the
delights of Christmas pudding, there being no such delicacy still on sale on the shelves of the local Co-op, until I was reminded, on our Family Zoom call, that I made one with my Little Sister, back in November, to our dear Mum’s special recipe.
It’s going to be such an extra special celebration. We have beef! We have parsnips! We even have a homemade Christmas pudding! What could possibly go wrong?
I have such Great Expectations...