The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

I’ll see your 40 and I’ll raise you another 40

on June 2, 2015

When my Mum and I first met, she was just a bit older than I am now. Full of energy, verve and fire.

For whilst you now see a smiling, benign older person, I can tell you that back then my Mum was quite formidable.

When you think of your parents and perhaps most family members that you see day in, day out, you rarely understand how remarkable they are. It’s only at some point later on when some other family member shares a memory with you. A memory that puts that person in a whole new light to the one you’ve always known.

Better yet, is when that person shares memories of their own with you. You know, when they become a person outside of you. Far from being the person that does the looking after of you and telling you off for things and generally dictating your every behaviour. It’s interesting to experience that shift when parents become people who don’t always put you at the centre of everything. I honestly don’t think it ever occurred to me that my parents had a life before me.

And naturally, as I get older, certain conversations and events have made me appreciate the experiences my parents have been through and eradicated all traces of the insolent adolescent thoughts of ‘what do you know?’, ‘how could you possibly understand?’ and ‘you are soooo unfair!’. Sometimes, as much as it can pain me, I have to admit to my Mum and my Dad, Mr Li that they are right about certain things. That they do know because they have been here before.

Many things have changed in 40 years but some things have remained the same. The concern of raising children, the health of elderly parents, the importance of a good education, having enough finances forever, being with the right person, kindness and respect for others, being happy, living in good health amongst family and friends. I daresay this list, whilst not exhaustive, will still be valid to the way we live in another 40 years time.

It’s funny isn’t it. How we vow as teenagers never to be like our parents when we grow up. And yet, as Responsible Grown Ups, I would very much like to be about 80% like my parents. And I probably have the other 20% in me too but choose not to see it. And I rather hope that in some 35 years time, #1, 2 and 3 will be having these thoughts about me too. Though it’s a shame we’ll have to go through the ‘what do you know?’, ‘how could you possibly understand?’ and ‘you are soooo unfair!’ stage too. With plenty of door slamming and loud sighs. For the record, I never did any door slamming. My Mum was rather formidable remember.

And so today is my Mum’s Birthday. She’s 80. Eight Zero. Or Seventy Ten according to #2.

Still young to someone who’s 95. But as my Mum herself said earlier she’s officially ‘Old’. Yeah, she probably is. And when you compare being merely 40 to someone who is Seventy Ten then you realise just how young you are and how much more life there is to live. Some of it may not be so great but most of it will be brilliant.

And if you thought at 40, your best was behind you then you are mistaken. From 40 onwards, my Mum ran her own business, (without knowing any more English than numbers around a roulette table), welcomed in-laws, grandchildren, great-grandchildren into the family, travelled to new places and even went to watch Newcastle United beat Leeds United at St. James’ Park.

I sometimes think that I have a lot of answers to some of the questions out there based on my 40 years and almost ten months. But then I will have a conversation with my Mum and it’s not a patch on her Seventy Ten years. She teaches me that there is no ‘handover’ date when it comes to children. That there is no date in the calendar when they are officially Grown Ups and you can absolve all responsiblity. I have conversations with my Mum and I can hear her tone of voice is exactly the same as when I speak of #1, 2 and 3. She still frets about our financial security, perhaps a trait left over from being a child growing up in a rural country post World War Two and being widowed in her early 40s. And she is not beyond voicing her opinion when she thinks we’ve behaved like idiots.

The difference being that at Seventy Ten, she says she’s done her part and if we choose to do things a certain way then so be it. She’s done with telling us otherwise. Quite rightly so. It’s time for my Mum to take a seat in a comfortable chair and let the world carry on around her whilst she potters off to meet her other Seventy Ten Something friends at the local Chinese Community Centre for lunch. They apparently don’t know it’s her Seventy Tenth Birthday today because she doesn’t want a fuss. Not because my Mum is concerned with her age, I think she would forget the numbers if we didn’t remind her every year. Would she rather we didn’t? But I guess it’s just a number to her now. She stopped counting years ago and stopped caring about getting older and became more concerned with good health and happiness in the family.

She may be a smiling, benign older person quietly mosying along the high street. But she is so much more than that. Get her on the wrong subject and I can hear the energy, verve and fire in her. This makes me smile.

You may be wondering why I’m not back in the UK celebrating this milestone birthday with her today. Of course there are many times I wish I were there and not here. Today is no exception. But actually, in Chinese tradition Seventy Eleven is the milestone birthday for women.

We have a big family and whilst my Mum doesn’t like much fanfare, I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to be surrounded by many of them tonight at dinner. Before wanting to go home and get comfortable in her bed and be snoring by 10pm. She said she’s reached that stage of falling asleep whilst watching tv. Doesn’t sound so bad does it? Except when she tells me she just woke up less an hour ago.

There is not much I can give my Mum for her Birthday. By the time she was 67 she said she had enough slippers, perfume and pyjamas to last her the rest of her days. She’s quite right about that too. She’s got about five pairs of vintage M&S slippers in pristine condition.

What I can give her though is remembering to call often, letting #1, 2 and 3 talk at her down the phone and letting her know that she does a great job being my Mum and that I love her every day.

This is the 150th post on my blog and I’m quite pleased that it falls on my Mum’s Seventy Tenth Birthday.

Happy Birthday to my Mum.


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