Today, on my way home from visiting my nephew’s new baby, I popped in to my brother’s place as my niece hasn’t been well and I wanted to say a quick hello and see how she was.
My brother seemed slightly chattier than previously - he actually spoke more than two words to me. In fact, he even asked how I was. I was so shocked that he’d asked, I didn’t know how to reply to begin with but I recovered sufficiently to say I was fine.
During the course of the conversation with my sister-in-law, I casually mentioned that I’d intended calling in at their local pub for a carvery but couldn’t recall exactly where it was so we’d probably go to one nearer home. It wasn’t an issue really – I was just making conversation. My brother then went into great detail when describing its precise location. I had no idea what some of the roads were called and struggled to get my bearings but eventually I understood. Rather than say, "thanks but no thanks but we’ve already decided to go to one on the way home rather than back tracking on ourselves", I just thanked him. As we were about to leave he mentioned a minor incident with one of the children from several years ago. I had no idea what he was referring to. He insisted, “You must remember.” I was completely blank. He said I’d mentioned it several times over the years – again I had no recollection.
He found it all very amusing saying, “There’s something wrong with you – you can’t remember where roads are and now you can’t even remember this. Something definitely wrong. You’ve changed. You’ve really changed. I don’t know what’s wrong with you.”
I was gobsmacked. I’ve never lived in the town where he lives. I lived in the next town as a child and returned for a few weeks in my twenties. The only time I visit that town is to visit family – and that’s not often. And when I do, I go to their homes and then go home. I couldn’t understand why it was such a big deal.
But what got to me were his comments that I’ve changed and that there’s something wrong with me for failing to remember insignificant, inconsequential events from years ago. As if they matter.
I wanted to shout at him, “Of course I’ve bloody changed. Of course I don’t remember stupid things that don’t matter. You seem surprised that I’ve changed and quite oblivious to why that might be. It’s because my son, your nephew, the boy whose coffin you carried less than two years ago, is dead and I am broken because of it. So please excuse me if I can’t recall a bit of torn wallpaper or the location of a pub that I’ve only visited once. It’s because those things don’t matter. But if you could just be bothered to remember that I had a son. If you could just once manage to say his name – just once – I wouldn’t forget that. Ever! But instead, all you can do is carry on pretending that it’s all rather amusing that I’ve changed and that you can’t, for the life of you, think why that might be.”
I didn’t say any of that though. Instead, we left and came home. And most unreasonably, I snapped at my daughter.