I can’t remember exactly when I realised that I needed to tell people what they meant to me. It may have been triggered by my Dad’s stroke, a day of near-loss. The day after, I remember thinking: I almost didn’t tell him how much I love him. He almost died without hearing it from me.
And so, when he was sufficiently recovered, I picked up the phone and dialled his number. I knew that, as a Yorkshireman, he would be excruciatingly embarrassed. But I hoped that, when the call had finished, he would be left with a warmth, a sense of achievement perhaps, as a parent, and of love.
As it happened, his stroke had made him surprisingly receptive to touchy-feeliness, and he not only soaked up my compliments (how much I loved him, how much I appreciate what he does for me, what he means to me), but also handed them back to me in good measure. The phone call brought us closer together and we have both never forgotten it.
I left it too late for my Granny. It was only when she was in the dark depths of dementia that I realised I had never told her how important she had been in my life. How she had been my female role model. How her kindness and humour had, in part, formed me. But mostly, just to say thank you. I missed telling her, a bit like missing a bus – the difference being that there were no more buses due.
So from then, I have tried to tell people when they have enriched my life. This has meant that I’ve written many thank you letters, or emails, to customer service employees when they’ve done a great job. (I also complain too, by the way, when they haven’t – I’m not a bleedin’ saint.) It occasionally means that I approach strangers in the street if they’re wearing something that’s made me smile – a great hat, perhaps. Or some wonderful shoes.
And it also took me to an awkward place today, with my GP. I’d only seen this lady once before. It was when Tween seemingly wasn’t improving after his head injury. I had given up work to care for him, and we were all very low. Dr G was the first, and the only, medical professional to say, “He will get better.” Her words gave us hope. That little phrase turned my life up from a 3 to an 8; she made us smile again. And she was right, too – he did get better.
I saw her again today about a ‘lady issue’, which she handled kindly and professionally. She was late, her computer wasn’t working, and she was obviously stretched. And yet the voice in my head was saying, “You’ve got to tell her. DO IT DO IT DO IT.” So just as I was getting my stuff together, I blurted out something along the lines of, “youweretheonlyonetotellusandyoumadeahugedifference, andhedidgetbetterandsomeofthatI’msureisdowntoyou.” She smiled and told me it was a lovely thing to hear on a Saturday morning.
And suddenly I couldn’t talk anymore, because I was crying.
I gave her an apologetic smile, and left.