I saw my parents off at airport yesterday. Needless to say, tears were shed, bones were crushed with a years worth of hugs, and the airport authorities were brought in to tear me from my parents grasp. I only survived the long tube journey back from Heathrow by reading a free copy of the Telegraph, very intently, from front to back (including the obituaries). Do you think I can remember a damn article? Gordon Brown made a speech, that much I gather.
The thing that most people commented on after meeting my parents was how cute they are together, and how affectionate they are with each other still. My Dad has always doted on my Mum - something I always took for granted - and as much as she is sometimes exasperated by his quirks*, they have lived their lives like two peas in a pod and she would be lost without him.
I remember it dawning on me in my teens that other people's parents were different. They nagged each other, or lead virtually separate lives, or seemed to barely tolerate one another. It wasn't until I reached my twenties that I realised that what my parents have is actually quite rare. Sad as it seemed (and still seems) to me, only once in a blue, blue moon - as Luka Bloom so beautifully sings - do lovers find each other. It is easy to be fooled - what with all the films, songs and stories devoted to the subject - into thinking that true love is everybody's birthright, easy to achieve as reaching out and plucking a rose. Actually, true love is a rare and fragile bird, and as much a product of will as it is of chance, magic, chemistry or whatever you want to call that ephemeral spark between two people.
My parents have certainly had their share of rough patches, but underlying their marriage is an unshakeable devotion to and blind faith in their "togetherness". That kind of fierce, limpet-like commitment has seen them through 35 years, 3 kids, and the various crises and celebrations that occur in varying frequencies in everybody's lives.
I am lucky enough to have two generations of stable, devoted, loving marriages on which to base my expectations. As one person commented, that's a hard act to follow. It surely is, my friend.
* I don't want to get into too much detail here, but let me just say - my Dad is a little averse to spending money; and even the simplest plan (ie. a trip to the shops) must be confirmed in triplicate - with supporting notes, lists, timelines and maps - in order for him to feel comfortable.