You know, like the ones we had with them when we were children, or more recently with our own children? The ones about the future, about holiday plans or projects, about what we’d do when we grew up, where we’d live, what pets we’d have, what we’d do if we won the lottery. It so easy to slip into at best ‘maintenance’ type conversations or gossip, with your parents: is there any food in the fridge, when’s the next doctor/hospital/chiropodist appointment, have you got enough coal/wood/oil/incontinence pads, have you seen the neighbour’s new hairdo? After a while you realise just how downbeat, and frankly miserable, the whole dialogue has become.
So this is my New Year’s Resolution: to make sure that even in those necessarily functional conversations I will make sure there is one bright spot. Maybe it will be checking for the arrival of the first snowdrop outside my mother’s door, or the first flowers in my father’s Christmas hyacinths. Maybe it will be hatching a plan for a meal or a coffee in town, a trip to the cinema, a visit from the grandchildren. And if I’m talking to them face to face, maybe it will be making sure I spend an extra 5, 10, 30 minutes with them to talk about whatever they want to talk about, whether its remembering a family holiday 40 years ago or discussing the shade of the neighbour’s hair dye. Its so easy to become really functional, just making sure my parents are ‘properly cared for’ and forgetting that having something to talk about and look forward to is just as important in your 80s as it is in your 40s. Ah yes, its remembering that ‘properly’ caring for anyone requires that quality time and attention.