Cigarettes on the balcony

Mom PosingI hit the bed with a muted thud. It had been a long day and an even longer night. My parents were up from Hamilton and, along with other family and friends, we’d celebrated being together with food, drink and Singstar.

I rolled over and checked my phone. It was about 3:30am, we’d just seen the extended family to their car after a prolonged karaoke-off between myself and my cousin Jenny. Arth had passed out on the sofa/bed, beer in his hand, and mom was on the balcony having a cigarette. I turned over again, closed my eyes and sighed.

Mom was on the balcony having a cigarette.

I tossed again. Mom and I don’t often get a chance to talk.

Cranes at Ports of AucklandI willed myself out of bed, put my clothes back on and wobbled back out to the lounge.

Arth had now completely sunken into the fold-out bed. Mom was still out on the balcony, “They’re busy things” she indicated towards the yellow vehicles moving industriously within the confines of the port “are they loading or unloading?”

I sat down in the chair next to her as she self-consciously waved the cigarette smoke away from me. “they’re straddles, Mom, see, they’re loading those containers onto that ship”.

“Gik would have loved this place” mom replied wistfully, her eyes never leaving the invisible horizon. We started talking.

I have fond memories of my grandfather “Gik” waking me up at the crack of dawn to watch the sun rise. They say you can tell a lot about someone from whether they like sunrise or sunset. He was definitely a sunrise person. Our conversation drifted, we spoke of the things concerning her: my uncle fighting cancer, Arth’s job, Scot’s friends, Susan’s imminent baby. I spoke about my life, my relationships, work. We spoke of the past and of the future, good, bad and indifferent, our hopes, dreams and regrets.

Dreams and regrets.

On the StepMy grandmother, Sybil, had such an enduring impact on my life. She loved to travel but she always tempered her spending, saying: “one day, when your grandfather’s gone I’ll…” there were so many things granny wanted to do, she was (and, in my mind still is) so full of life. She died first, though, and like a love bird, Gik never recovered from her loss.

You never know what life will throw at you, what country you will be in tomorrow, who will be dead and who will be born. All you can know is this very moment is precious and, for goodness sake, talk to your mother!

Mother & DaughtersI have talked to people estranged from their family who haven’t spoken a word to their mother or father for over a decade. I know people who, though they live in the same house, have never had a meaningful conversation with their parents. I know people who would sooner die than tell their father what they really think. I know parents stricken by grief at being unable to reconnect with their children.

Life is too short, way too short, for that kind of regret. I feel very fortunate that I can share the parts of my life that matter with my parents, that they love me no matter what I do, and I give thanks for cigarettes and balconies for giving my mother and I those few precious moments together.