Grey waves on a sombre beach

Emotional weather

I’m staying with Dad for the weekend, and because he’s having some new health problems, it’s quite hard work. My mother was always the anxious one. I wonder now, in her absence, how much she was anxious for everybody, in the literal sense of taking on other people’s anxiety. Dad is getting more and more anxious as he gets older. He hasn’t come to terms with the fact that he’s eighty-eight next month. He’s doing amazingly for his age, but he’s rarely been ill, and has escaped most debilitating conditions until now.

I made a list of the reasons this is a tricky situation for him, me and my sister, which I’m not going to share here, but this weekend more than ever I find myself influenced by the emotional weather in the house, which matches the drizzle coming across the Atlantic. He’s miserable, frustrated, afraid and generally grouchy, but in between he is also drily funny, easily distracted by sports, caring and good company. We watched Bullet Train last night, which we both found gross and very amusing. These are the breaks in the clouds.

Today I’ve spent solid time with him, but also escaped to Swansea, Porthcawl and Aberavon. My part of North Yorkshire is much colder and drier than South Wales, and I forget how these weather fronts can define the days. It finally stopped raining mid-afternoon, so I went to my mother’s grave to say hello. A woman left the children’s graveyard with her hood up, hiding her face. I spotted a hawk floating over the nearby woodland. It was quiet.

I’ve still got time with my father, but this stretch of illness feels different to previous ones. I can’t tell if this is my misery, or if I’m infected with the gloom over this house. Caring for others is also a seemingly endless exercise in reinforcing boundaries.