It is essential Mother doesn’t feel like a lodger in our home if this experiment in our family life is to work. According to my wife, she must have full citizenship, not just a second rate settled status.
‘She has to feel this home is as much hers as ours. We must encourage her to have her friends around. Have parties. Be herself’
‘What about sleep overs?’ says my Son.
‘Them, too,’ says Wife refusing to rise to his bait, while I imagine half a dozen elderly people here for a sleep over. Would they wrapped argue over which Cary Grant movie to watch and stay up all night wrapped in their sleeping bags like teenagers?
Should we get an online booking system?
‘We need an online booking system to manage this new situation. I’ve got a few parties booked over Christmas and we don’t want diary conflicts,’ says my Daughter, who’s on a flying visit from University.’
‘Which parties? Where?’ I ask.
‘Here. Why else would I be suggesting a family booking system?’ says my Daughter, looking at me as if I’m an inferior species.
‘Try to keep up,’ says my Son.
Later that week, Mother tells me that two of her former neighbours, who now live in South Africa, are coming at the weekend to see her.
‘Are they staying with us?’ I ask hesitantly.
‘If they were staying, I would have asked your wife first. Just because I’m old doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten my manners,’ she snaps. ‘It’s just lunch.’
‘Would you like me to do anything to help?’
She wants us out of the house
‘Yes. Make sure everyone’s out by 12.30. I don’t want you fussing around me or the boy slumming in front of the TV playing one of his ghastly video games. Just buy me some lemons and makes sure there’s a full bottle of gin in the cupboard.’
It is clear Mother has embraced Wife’s philosophy of ‘Mi casa, su casa’. In fact, it feels like she’s taking it one step further. Not only has she invited her friends into our home but she’s also throwing us out. This feels more ‘Mid Witch Cuckoo’ than ‘Su Casa’. I wonder how this will go down with my Wife?
‘Perfect,’ she says. ‘This is just how it should be. She wants to be in control of her party and to have some privacy. You can take me out for lunch.’
There’ll be no slobbery this Sunday
‘What about me?’ says my Son. His usual Saturday morning routine of slobbing around on the games console is in tatters.
‘You’ll have to be up and dressed before mid-day for once. It’s nothing to be scared of,’ replies my Wife. I can’t resist chipping in.
‘Daddy will be there for you through this trauma. Just like we were when the internet went down for two hours last week and those other big turning points in your life.’
Boomer is the biggest insult
‘Boomers,’ he sneers and walks out.
Wife and I arrive back at teatime to find Mother triumphant from her lunch party. Three hours of uninterrupted, good old fashioned gossip about the old days, the old neighbours and my old man. What’s not to like?
‘They loved your house, by the way. They think you’ve got marvellous taste and soft furnishings.’
I don’t need to turn around to know Mother is talking to my Wife not me.
‘They loved the new wood fire, especially. In South Africa they only need fires to barbecue on,’ she laughs.
‘Wood fire?’ says Wife alarmed.
‘Yes. I put some logs on the fire in case it went out. Such a wonderful, woody smell, isn’t it?’
Mother has been building a funeral pyre
Our fire isn’t a real. It’s a ‘Wood Burner Gas Fire with Realistic Flame Effect’. Unfortunately, it looks so real Mother has been laying wood logs onto it, almost as if she wants to build her own funeral pyre. The smell Mother is referring to is actually smouldering plastic. God knows what might have happened if the fire hadn’t been made out of fire retardant materials.
Later, with Mother upstairs exhausted with fun, my Wife sweeps up the ashes.
‘Thank God for EU safety standards. They could have been burnt alive. You must warn her about not doing it again.’
Mother’s sister died of severe burns after candles set her night gown alight. Telling her she’s almost burnt our house down will remind her of that. It’s going to make her feel foolish, too. Is that helpful? Will that stop her making the same mistake again or just humiliate her? My son, who has changed back into his pyjamas, is booting up the PS4. He pipes up.
‘Shall I have a chat with her instead of Dad? It’s easier for me to tell her she’s a silly old bat than you and I won’t make it sound like a lecture.’
There are only a few moments when you realise what a great parent you’ve been. This is one of them.
‘Perfect,’ I say. ‘Deal.’
‘Coward,’ says Wife, as I rush upstairs.
‘Just going to check if the insurance policy,’ I say. ‘Want to see if we’re covered for arson by elderly relatives.’