Man in the Middle – Chapter 56: Mixed emotions about the day ahead

A middle aged man realises his elderly mother can no longer cope alone, so she moves in with them. Squeezed by the demands of the demographic time bomb and the requirements of the rest of the family, the Man in the Middle is bemused that life has become a hi-wire act, just when he thought it should start getting easier. How can he keep everyone happy and survive with his sanity intact?

If you’d like to begin at the beginning and missed the first instalment, you can read
No. 1: The Letter here

No.57: Mixed emotions about the day ahead

I often wake up with mixed emotions about the day ahead. I’m not sure why. I used to be bubbly at breakfast and often thought I was at my best before noon. Carpe diem, I used to say to myself every morning, like Bertie Wooster, pumped on Highballs for Breakfast. Now, I start too many days with my teacup half full and sugarless.

‘I’ve lost my mojo,’ I say to my wife, as a chunk of marmalade falls from my multi-seed toast onto my PJs.

‘What with Covid and our silver wedding anniversary coming up is it any wonder?’ says my wife.

I am about to agree with her wholeheartedly, but something in my subconscious, applies the emergency hand brake in my brain and no words slip from my marmaladed mouth. Instead, I just chew on my toast slowly and near silently, like a cow mulling over the weather.

That was a close shave, I mull. If I had agreed with her, I would have been guilty of admitting that the loss of my mojo was partly caused by the length of our marriage. Effectively, I would have been blaming her. And blaming your wife for anything in front of the children is a monumental blunder to match the Charge of the Light Brigade or the Titanic playing chicken with an iceberg. Any Fule Kno That.

Even more importantly, it would have been a breach of the ancient British common law tradition, which rules that ‘Serious or Intimate Conversation is not allowed at breakfast, except in unusual circumstances, like war.’ I can almost hear Mark Francois MP in my inner ear saying ‘Britain didn’t build its Empire by men discussing their mojos over the eggs and B.’

Thankfully, instead of Mark Francois MP, I have a tiny lawyer inside my head who works tirelessly to prevent me from unnecessarily incriminating myself or generally fouling things up with what my wife calls my ‘foot in mouth’ tendency. If this lawyer were real, they’d be making a fortune with the hours they’re clocking up for me.

My inner lawyer advises me I have to reject her suggestion our anniversary is a cause for my depression. If I do not go on the record soon, my silence may be taken as an admission of guilt. Choose your words carefully, they whisper, words make history.

‘Our marriage is one of few things that keeps me positive,’ I find myself saying.

‘Reeeaaally? Can’t you keep that sort of thing for the privacy of your bedroom? I’m still eating breakfast,’ says my son.

‘When mum still thought you were fun, she used to say you were half man, half Labrador puppy,’ says my daughter.

‘Now you’re more like a quarter man, three quarters chihuahua,’ says my son.

‘Dad’s just trying to be sweet,’ says my wife.

‘But it’s sad watching him struggle with something so alien to him,’ says my son. ‘Like a child with its first bike.’

Before my daughter can chip in again, my wife reminds her that I have volunteered to drive with her to her teaching college this morning. As she is still a learner driver, she needs me to go with her. Or it’s three buses.

‘Let’s just let this conversation go. That way, no one will get offended and change their commitments,’ she says.

She’s referring to me. I love it when she talks about me in the abstract. It feels like being wrapped a 15 TOG duvet. I finish up a second piece of toast and turn to my daughter.

‘Shall we go?’

‘Yup’ she says.

As I pass my wife, she says she didn’t mean to imply our wedding anniversary might be a source of depression. It certainly isn’t one to her, she says. And nor does she think our wedding anniversary is in anyway comparable to a deadly and oppressive plague like Covid, in case I had accidentally drawn that inference from what she said earlier.

‘It was my fault for even mentioning my mojo at breakfast. That was a clear breach of British breakfast tradition. Nothing personal should be said until the kedgeree is cleared away,’ I say.
She looks at me bemused. From the hall, my daughter is scrabbling around in the key box. There’s an angry rattling.

‘I can’t find the car keys,’ she says. ‘Who had them last?’

‘Nothing to do with me,’ I shout.

‘Nor me,’ echoes my son.

‘Oh for heaven’s sake, do I have to do everything around here?’ asks my wife, to which no one replies, because the answer is too obvious.

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Chapter 57: The runway to Me Time gets blocked

Read the previous one – Chapter 55: In the sweat of your brow shall you eat

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

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