THE middle boy is home for the weekend and I am telling him the story of the lost keys times three.
The first missing key mystery arose after my sister-in-law popped my keys into her bag then drove home. “Ha,” says the boy. “That’s because you’re all getting old.”
This is a bit of a slap in the face, but the sting can wait, for now we must address the most recent missing key mystery. Four days tearing out what remains of my hair. Those lost keys were even reported to the police. They were mentioned at university as the bunch included the key that admits me to an office I share.
Four days scouring everywhere ten times, then ten times more. Unlikely theories are mentioned many times. “I think I dropped them in the rubbish when I emptied the bin” – a mantra I repeat at will.
Then my daughter wanders downstairs and says: “Are these your keys?” She’d picked them up by mistake and popped them in her bag. What is it with the women in this family?
The other lost key mystery came when I left my keys on the outside of the backdoor for two days. That door was opened and shut, locked and unlocked from the inside, with the lost keys dangling there, before I spotted them through the window and thought, “What an idiot.”
I relay all this to my son, the one who thinks we are all getting old, as we shop for ingredients for his brother’s 30th birthday cake. My wife and daughter make the cake and it goes wrong. I am on hand to help by eating all the shavings from the surgery. Then the cake goes spectacularly right, helped no doubt by me scoffing the sweet wastage.
We get the taxi to our son’s birthday party, arriving with the spectacular cake. A party of 20 celebrates that first little boy turning 30. There he is, six ft two, bearded and smiling, a primary school teacher and all.
It’s a lovely night but this getting old thing follows me home like a lost dog. I recall my own 30th birthday party, that seems only the other day, and the three parties that have followed.
In the morning we drive to Manchester to see my dad for his delayed party. He’s 86 and spent his birthday two weeks ago just out of hospital, following a bad brush with pneumonia.
My two brothers are there. “We’re all getting old together,” I think. And there’s our dad, frail now, but full of spirit. Full of prosecco, too. He’s having a good afternoon and seems much like he always does, just frailer.
You grow old together in a family. The shy little boy turns into a confident 30-year-old, as his dad wanders the scuffed corridor from 30 to 60. I can’t avoid noticing that my dad is getting old at last, while my middle boy thinks we are getting on a bit. Which we are, but that’s OK – better than the alternative at any rate.
I drive back to York, make a pot of tea and have an old person’s nap, before trying some of the beer the kids bought me as for father’s day. Lovely beer, lovely kids.
I tell that lost dog to go and follow someone else.