The thing about having a parent come to stay is that you realise just where all your tics and delightful mannerisms (eccentricities and annoying habits) come from.
I like to be on time. Left to my own devices, I will always be on time, if not early.
Now that I have Gareth dragging me down, I am often even as much as seven minutes late. And when I am, my friends, it’s not a pretty sight.
When, as a result of Gareth’s more relaxed attitude to punctuality, I can foresee that I will be late for something, an anxious cloud of fear starts swirling in my chest. I can actually feel it. My palms start sweating. I develop palpitations. I get grumpy. Monosyllabic.
Then, I go and wait at the bottom of the stairs for him. It’s the best place for me, I have decided. It shows I am ready, I am not the one holding us up, and hopefully encourages him to get a bloody move on.
But Gareth has taken to likening me to a dog that knows it’s about to get walked. You show it the lead and it bounds over to the front door, waiting dutifully for its master to let it out into the world.
Ha ha, Gareth. Ha ha.
He can mock me if he wants, but I get the last laugh because I arrive on time to stuff. I’m punctual. Punctuality is a good thing.
So we’ve had Dad to stay for a week.
And watching him go to wait at the bottom of the stairs as we prepare to leave the house, it suddenly hit me. A) it’s quite annoying and B) he is why I’m so terrified of tardiness.
Childhood memories came flooding back.
Dad would shout: ‘THREE MINUTES” at me three minutes before he wanted to leave anywhere, then go and sit in the car.
I learned not just to tell the time like most really clever five year olds, but one better. I learned military time. ‘We’ll be there at 1500 hours.’ Dad would say. And we always were. If not earlier.
It’s not all his fault. I also went to boarding school – an institution so strict that a deafening bell would chime every five minutes to remind you where you were supposed to be. If you weren’t in the right place, you were in trouble.
Now, my 7am alarm goes off. One second later I’m up and the 100M sprint that is my day begins. I have to be in the shower by 07.10 and at my desk by 07.30 or else the whole world will come to a devastating end. Presumably.
Gareth, on the other hand, gives the snooze button a jolly good seeing to before rising when he feels like it.
Those palpitations I mentioned earlier would sky rocket if I dared stay in bed a minute past 7am. I mean, can you imagine what would happen? Crikey, it doesn’t bear thinking about. Sometimes Gareth tries to pin me to the bed just to see what will happen. I sometimes wonder if I might spontaneously combust from the nervous energy that generates as the fear of lateness sets in.
So should I change, I ask myself? Of course it’s not very nice for Gareth when he’s trying to make himself look beautiful before we go out for an evening and I’m stomping around getting frustrated in prelude to being late.
Or maybe Gareth should change. Maybe when we’ve planned to leave the house at 7pm, he should get in the shower a little earlier than 6.55pm.
I suppose you’re thinking we should both compromise. You’re probably right. As long as the compromise we come to gets us there on time.