Most of us end up owing our parents something, at one point or another in our lifetimes. This may be money, time, words, patience. For me, the biggest debt I owe my parents is gratitude. I do my best to show it, but like “sorry”, “thank you” can become devalued with overuse.
In 2005 when I said I wanted to setup my own business at the age of 22 my parents supported me. They waited in for the cable guy to come and fit an extra phone line while I was at work, they sat and licked envelopes with me when I sent out my first mailshot. My dad walked the high street with a pack of business cards, and my mum consoled me when I felt dispondent. At no point did they say “Mark, you’re an idiot. You don’t know the first thing about business. What the hell are you thinking?” They just quietly let me get on, learn some lessons and ultimately fail.
In 2008 when I got tired of some of the manipulation I felt at my old job (from someone who has long since left), finding no decent jobs I turned to contracting. Although living on my own now, and with my parents fostering 3 kids, the level of support both financial and emotional never waned. They were happy for me when I was offered a Directorship at a tech firm and offered tea and sympathy when that Directorship never meterialised and I was made redundent.
During the whole of 2009 where I decided to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation and make Bluemilkshake my sole concern, they shared every victory, and knowing how much they cared I did my best to hide every defeat. My dad spent days putting up the bedroom and office furniture that my mum had helped me pick out, and ferried me and Misty around when she needed to see the vets.
But those are big things. Things that good parents Just Do, where they can. But sometimes it’s the little things, like getting loads of meat and veg in for me while I’m at work, and putting each portion of meat into little bags after tenderising every piece. Not because I’m lazy, not because I asked them to do it, and not because they think I’m incapable. Just because.
Things like cleaning my flat because there are things I can’t see, or driving me to places I can’t navigate to. Often the kind of things that, as a guy with a good job and a good home, and with friends who have good jobs and good homes, I don’t like to admit I need help with. Because sometimes it’s just easier to be funny than vulnerable.
It’s actually the little things that make my eyes water a little, and my throat tighten. Things that I couldn’t possibly repay now, and things I try hard not to rely on or take for granted.
Leaving home has brought me so much closer to my parents. I never realised how much I had in common with my mum. We share so many neuroses and guilt complexes, and having someone who absolutely shares those irrational feelings is wonderful. And the car journeys I have with my dad give us the chance to educate each other on our beliefs, our outlooks and things we’ve recently learned or come to understand.
I often worry about doing things that my parents would disapprove of, and that these actions might serve as cruel payback for all their acts of kindness. But they don’t strike at the core values which me and my brother - who I will no doubt embarass in another post - have been imbued with by our parents. Dispite the times where I’ve hurt my parents, they remain proud of me, and that in itself can never be repaid or even comprehended by someone like me, who can so often be self-absorbed.
The last 2 years have been a real challenge, and in some places quite a struggle. But now I feel I’m coming out the other side, and that is in no small part due to Mary and David.
I love you.