I’m at home today trying in vain to do my tax return. A scruffy hand-written note among the papers on my desk is distracting me from the task. The words tug, almost unbearably, on my heartstrings. And so I am forced to put away the sums and spreadsheet for the moment. Sod HMRC, I need to figure out why this matters and what it says about the much maligned business of growing old. The note reads –
For Heidi, So that she can Pick what she needs or wants, from her aged Parents. Have a Peaceful Break X X
This little inscription will, no doubt, appear unremarkable to many people. To me it is incredibly potent. It was written by my father Peter Dore, a shy man from the stiff upper lip tradition, short on niceties, terms of endearment, kisses and cuddles.
He presented the note to me at Christmas with some Debenhams gift vouchers. An additional message was scrawled on the voucher. “Treat Yourself”
Both the note and voucher are indelible proof of the dramatic transformation in my father in his later years. There is no doubt about it – he is sweetening and softening with age.
All his life, he valued things in terms of whether or not they were useful or functional. Treating yourself was an anathema to him. Now he is funding me to do it – what an amazing turn around.
I’m also astonished that Peter has dedicated an entire piece of virgin paper to me. Messages from him in the past would be on scraps such as the back of an old envelope. It is deeply touching to note that this deeply reserved man has added not just one but TWO kisses.
This is the latest in a series of changes I’ve witnessed in my father as he approaches 80. I’m sad to see his hair white, his legs doddery, to find him asleep on the sofa in the afternoon – but I cannot deny that huge compensations come with this.
As his physical body weakens, he becomes emotionally stronger and bolder. He has begun to send me text messages for no reason other than to say he is thinking of me. Two years’ ago he paid me my first compliment, calling me a “sylph-like Peter Pan” without any disapproving undertones. When a dodgy ankle stopped him getting about, he bought a Brompton bike, and now bombs across town to see me. These things I cherish.
All this is, unequivocally, an expression of my father’s love for me. Finally, he is free to express it. I have growing old to thank for this miraculous transformation.