Last year, Liadan Hynes' marriage fell apart. She is now working on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves.
Grandad is away and Herself is counting the days. To be honest, we both are.
Grandad is of course my father, but so fully has he inhabited the role that most of the time the rest of us now also refer to him as Grandad. Grandad and my Mo are what Herself calls my parents. Mo started off as mum; Herself imitating me for a few days. This could be weird I thought at the time. Luckily it morphed without any encouragement into Mo.
The Mother is thrilled, having dreaded being called Gran, Granny, or worst, Nana.
So he’s away for ten days and we are counting them, she clocks off my fingers as each day passes, and is planning a lunch in Clontarf’s newest restaurant The Baths when he gets back, an upgrade from their weekly trip to Starbucks for Friday pretzels (smuggled in from Lidl across the courtyard) and ‘ccinos.
I always knew my dad would be a good grandparent. His own were world class. My daughter was not the easiest of babies. There was reflux. She was a screamer. I remember in the first few weeks, when essentially only myself, her dad and The Mother could hold her without it quickly descending into caterwauling, taking her from the Father, she screaming, again. ‘No, no’, I remember thinking impatiently. ‘You’re not getting it. You’re going to love him. You guys are going to be great’. And they are.
‘You know there’s one person she’s obsessed with’, her teacher confided recently, and I thought ‘oh god, what’s coming?’ ‘Grandad,’ she said. ‘Everything comes back to Grandad.’ While he’s away, we video call every afternoon after playschool. She’ll prop the phone up as she colours, or eats her snack, chatting away. ‘Stay there,’ will come the imperious command, as she moves about the room. ‘It’s sort of like having the disembodied head from Futurama about the house’ I tell him.
I will occasionally interrupt with a food related query- I am fundamentally unable to cook chicken without obsessively querying the Father about it. When the parents went to China on holiday the time difference became a real issue. I enter her room one evening, there’s a conversation about what they’re having for dinner going on, she’s lying on her bed with the phone on the pillow beside her. ‘Having a little chat’, to use her three year old's phrase.
The Father is a calm, steady, unflappable type of person, with a gift for relaxing like no one I know. I sometimes mini-break with him at our place in Spain and a conversation about what I want to do for the few days instantly segues into what we will eat, where we will eat it, and what we will drink with whatever we eat, which is exactly what we both meant by do.
Resilience is a thing now, the trendy antidote to the more grabby, me, me, me-ishness of demanding constant happiness. But he has always been the most resilient person I know, irritated on occasion, but rarely really bothered. His mood is his own. When the deep, rod foundations of your life are pulled up, this is the kind of thing you want in your life.
Peace of mind and stability were what I craved after the uproar of a marriage breakdown. When life falls apart, for a time, the chaos is inescapable. However much you hate it, life is turmoil and there is little you can do about that. Peace of mind, and stability, it became like a mantra to me for a time. You can do all the meditation, mindfulness, exercise, and healthy eating you like, but before all of this there is the core group of people in your life, probably your family, and one or two friends, who will steady you.
I’m reading Tina Brown’s book about her years at Vanity Fair. At one point, during a difficult period, she reflects that it is time to retreat, gather the tribe, and circle the chairs around the fire.
I listen to Fearne Cotton’s podcast interview with Dawn French- I’ve heard that Dawn talks about her separation to Lenny Henry, so I’m straight on it. She describes how because of her parents love and guidance she has a very strong inner voice that just when she could tip off a ledge will say ‘come on’. And so she never will tip off a ledge. She has that anchor, she says.
This week has been hard. For no reason in particular. It’s inevitable, I suppose, that there will be difficult weeks. But never once, no matter how difficult it has been at any time through all this, have I ever thought I would tip off the ledge. I knew I could handle this. That is fully down to my parents. The anchor.