The suggested generosity ambush didn’t quite happen yesterday. The truth is, that I wasn’t feeling that generous with my time any more! A Saturday which just a few days previously had been a deliciously blank canvas, was now to include an hour’s drive each way to pick up a new car and I was additionally being challenged with the idea that we really ought to put in a visit to my father-in-law. As I was wondering how to achieve the ‘Devise a Surprise’ task in an uncontrived and meaningful way, I found myself suggesting that the visit to father-in-law should be a surprise.
And whilst it did feel a bit like cheating, it meant that instead of being resentful about giving up my time, I was able to focus on ensuring that the surprise would be a pleasant one.
It seems incredible to me, that in all the 30 plus years of knowing my parents-in-law, a surprise visit would have been out of the question until recently. But since losing my mother in law to cancer, the rules have all changed – despite the extent to which my father-in-law is trying to honour his much treasured wife and his longstanding marriage by following the same routines and practices that were (so it turns out to be) the strength and beauty of their existence.
I am so glad we went. He was having a difficult day and needed to share his grief, and sit and talk. I was able to do a little ironing – of no consequence to me but representing a hurdle climbed to him.
We talked about the surprise of losing a partner. Of how difficult it is to be left alone and genuinely believe that the whole reason for living has suddenly been taken away. And then strangely enough, for reasons I can’t quite remember, he started talking about the CS Lewis book ‘Surprised by Joy’. And I am left thinking how to be surprised by joy must be the best kind of surprise possible, and how of all the things I might desire most right now, being surprised by joy is what I would wish for my father in law struggling to live at home alone, and for my own father with so many battles at home alone, and for my mother having to come to terms with being in a nursing home and not at home.
One delightful surprise as we drove home through the open farm land – a barn owl sitting on the lower branch of a tree by the side of the road.