Saturday 23rd April
I was eighteen when my son was born. 1969 and I was little more than a child myself and my then wife was even younger. Madness by any definition, and yet we survived – somehow. My son and I, I meant; that marriage was soon over. He was eighteen months old when she left with Seamus; he was much older than me and though I was heartbroken at the time; phew, what a favour she did me. So it was my son and I, against the world, or so it sometimes seemed. It was really unusual for a guy to be a single parent in those days, but we survived – and actually thrived. Well, as Joni would later sing, ‘the years went by and now the boy was eighteen’ and those difficult teenage years, we drifted apart a bit, not helped by my embarking on yet another unsuccessful relationship. His second sister was still a baby and – oh well, what’s the use of maybes? He left home, not quite as I had done eighteen year earlier but it was a parting of the ways. We still remained friends and then when he was in his mid-twenties he too got married and started having children; he just didn’t really know how to stop. Three in just over three years he had; my lovely Sheffield grandchildren. I have seen them every few months, even though just like his father my son failed in his first marriage, or rather he and his wife parted (whose fault it might have been is academic – it usually is). I watched these three grow up, and for a long time there were just three grandchildren in my life; five more have come along much later.
First Rebecca and then Dominic have reached the age of eighteen, and now the third one, Mathew, is eighteen (on Thursday actually). I am making the long trek up to Sheffield today (co-incidentally that third daughter’s 31st birthday is today also), and I really miss them. This is one of the hardest things about living in France; your grandchildren, and indeed your own children, grow older without you being around. Of course, we are all growing older every day, but when your grandchildren reach the age of eighteen, the age you became a father yourself, you do realise it a bit more. So, another milestone, tinged with a sense of pride. When I was a naughty schoolboy (and despite appearances I am one no longer) standing outside the headmaster’s study, waiting to be caned I would read the bronze plaque on the wall “To you we pass the burning torch, be it yours to hold up high.” I never really understood it until now as I pass it on to these clever and wonderful grandchildren. Happy Birthday, Matty…hope you have a good one (oh, and don’t screw up, at least not the way your Grandad did).