I was 25, when I attended the funeral of a friend for the first time.
It was a sobering experience. It was part of being an adult!
Rosaria Merola, a gorgeous girl I was at secondary school with, was killed in a car-crash.
I hadn’t actually seen her for many years. Sadly, like many of my friends from school, we had simply lost touch as college and working life had taken over. Facebook wasn’t invented in those days, so keeping in touch was a lot harder to do.
Despite the many years that had passed, I still felt the devastation of the tragic loss of such an amazing young woman, stolen away so callously.
Many of her school friends reunited in grief at the funeral mass and we all met up in our old sixth form haunt, The Red Lion in Northop Hall, to raise a glass to Rosie. I don’t know if anything since has truly made me realise I was now an adult, in the way her death did.
Since then I have stood graveside for far too many people, who were stolen too soon. Holding the hands of friends who have lost; partners, parents, siblings and sadly the worst loss of all, a child.
Life’s big occasions; weddings, births, first day at school, push us a little bit closer to that realisation that we are indeed the so-called, sensible, mature middle-aged people that society depends on!
We hold down jobs, raise families, keep the local youth, sports, and scouting clubs going with our endless hours of volunteering, trip planning and car-pooling. All for the good of our own offspring, but also our communities as a whole – ‘children are the future’ after all!
We all face into the typical signs and signals of adulthood, like bills, mortgages, sensible shoes with a low heel, without so much as blinking an eyelid.
Face into it all, apparently seamlessly, and before we know it, we all have; fuel efficient SUVs, a coveted tracker mortgages and are holding out for Black Friday to buy an amply discounted pair of Ecco shoes and a Smart TV – all the staples of a grown-up life.
We have to face facts and get real, you can’t wear heels on the side-lines of a football pitch, not unless you’re a WAG, and let’s face it they never have to be pitch side worrying about keeping their good jeans clean.
I often take a step back looking at my house or car and think, bloody hell, I own that! Or at least I do on paper, even if the monthly payments catapulting from my bank account on payday, rein me in a bit and remind me, that actually I nearly, own it at least!
Sometimes though, it all feels a little bit like an out of body experience, and I actually feel totally disconnected from all of the grown-up things I’m doing, almost like a puppet being operated by someone else. Presenting myself as fully fledged forty something, with the wrinkles and pension portfolio to prove it. But on the inside, I haven’t got a clue what us going on and am winging it until a real grown up arrives!
Being a parent, especially to a child with special needs, without doubt makes you grow up fast. If I stop and think about it for too long, I falter and begin to think I’m just not able for it. The level of responsibility it brings, the things I have to consider and the impact if it all goes wrong!
When I was a child, I would ask my Nana how old she was and be shocked that she was in her sixties. She would tell me on every birthday she celebrated, “I don’t feel any different.” I have to admit to being totally perplexed by that comment every year.
This wrinkly little old lady, who always had baking flour on her polyester trousers from Marks and Spencer, who slept with her teeth in a glass and wore a psychedelic floral swim hat, anytime we went to the pool. How could she not ‘feel’ like she was pushing one hundred years old. But now, of course, I completely get it!
On holiday, in France this year, a little girl wandered passed me with a rubber ring that had a mermaid’s tail and I was right back to being 7 again! I so desperately wanted to have that rubber ring.
I had to quickly remind myself that a) I was 4 years old and b) There wasn’t a hope in hell that a rubber ring, designed for children, was ever going around my waist. Middle age spread is the largest and most visual sign of my adulthood, so getting it passed my arse or boobs would be like trying to pass a rottweiler guarding its master – painful and likely to end in tears and blood – both of them mine.
So, Nana, now I absolutely get what you meant. I don’t feel any different either!
As the years roll by, speeding up with each passing birthday, our brains take a while to catch up. Maybe our resistance to this and the desire to never truly feel like a grown up, is rooted in us not wanting to miss out on the fun.
Or to face the terrifying fact, that like a great party you don’t ever want to leave, our one great truth, is one day, someone will be shedding tears at our grave side. The fact that, none of us are getting out alive, is the part of adulthood we all fight hard to avoid, but also should drive us to embrace every day. No matter what age we are, or what that means to us.
A few years ago, I drove home from a weekend away with my best friend, all the way home we commented on the hanging baskets we encountered in all of the little towns and villages outside the pubs – we never once considered stopping at one of the pubs to admire the beer on the inside. We were getting older!
Even on my trip to Metallica with Mick last year, I packed a picnic of rioja, non alcoholic beer (to pace myself) and hummus! Seriously, does it get any more middle aged than hummus?
Even though I wore a very short skirt, I did accessorise it with 100 denier tights. as I knew I’d be bloody freezing on the way out at midnight, and I didn’t want to catch a chill. My pac-a-mac was leopard print,but it was still a pac-a-mac and not exactly rock and roll!
But whilst, I won’t be missing any payments on my tracker mortgage and the school lunches will continue to be packed sensibly every day, ensuring the right mix of dairy, fruit and grains, you won’t be stopping me having a sneaky go on the slide in the park, looking out the window checking for Santa on Christmas Eve, getting excited over fireworks or licking the bowl when we make cakes.
So, I wonder if I could get that mermaid ring comes in extra-large?