I have just spent a wonderful weekend with my wife, where we went to London to take in a show, share a meal and then do that thing that all parents love to do when they get some time alone - sleep later than 5.30am. We saw, and saw that it was gurrrd.
During our little excursion (which she had arranged as a surprise for me - wonderful woman), we were able to enjoy thinking about our life as we presently find it. We were married for a decade before The Twins Aculae made their appearance, so we are very comfortable being together as a couple, and are able to look at what we enjoy now as is distinct from when it was just the two of us. It was a fabulous and an all-positive conversation.
It followed hard on the heels of something that struck me a little while ago. My mum came to stay with us over Christmas, and then she went home. In years gone by, my nan used to have Christmas with my mum and whoever else was around, and then she went home. The mother-in-law visits, and then goes home. All of these people go home to be alone in an empty house. All of these people have known fuller houses, homes with marauding kids, too much to do and too little time. Now they live alone, or lived alone in the case of my beloved nan is who is no longer on this earth.
My current life is one of a parent with young kids battering around the place making their noise and mess. It is just wonderful! I am fast discovering that one of my own greatest fears is that time, perhaps, when no-one with whom I spend my life now is still with me. The kids will inevitably fly the nest, and I might survive my wife. It is a difficult prospect - that of being alone, yet at least half of us are destined to experience it at one level or another. I am not afraid of death, but I am afraid of being alone and being alive.
Being alone is not, per se, a bad thing - when it is chosen (in my own opinion). I enjoy my own company; it provides me some relief from a public ministry or a high-speed high-octane lifestyle that parents to young children will know all about. I try hard to put myself in my mum's shoes at times - more especially when she has been with us for a while, having to return to an empty house, mit moggy. It seems somehow unjust that, having given us all a home and safety, warmth and sustenance that she should seem to be abandoned to being alone after dad did the disgraceful thing and died. Maybe she doesn't see it that way, I don't know.
I minister to the recently 'aloned' - those dear people whom I encounter at the point of arranging a funeral. The thing that affects me most is their own fear of the future being alone. As I have heard said, and with which I often agree - comedy is funnier with someone else to laugh with; a meal tastes better; a walk is so much more enjoyable; recalling the day's silliness more meaningful; sharing story or a joke, or an observation of something beautiful more pleasurable. I feel for those people once the service and wake are over, the family and well-wishers gone, and then the same room with the same familiar things, with someone missing.