We are on the long ferry journey home and in a few hours I will see my other daughter and son again. I have been away from J for a few weeks at a time – he is away at school, but never K. She is intensely private and self contained, but always prefers someone, mainly me to be nearby.
Her texts from home have cheered me hugely. She rarely uses her mobile, the bill arrives each moths and few minutes are used or texts sent. I challenged her to call me or text me while I am away. She texts me about the Olympic ceremony, but i am at sea, her texts come through on Saturday evening. A series of exclamations about the crazy genius of Danny Boyle. A few days in, I text her. I tell her I really miss her. The reply is swift. It states: I miss you too. Life without you is one long adventure in how the fuck does a tumble dryer work. I laugh out loud and text instructions. I ask if is her, her brother or her dad who is feckless. She replies that they all are and they may not last the fortnight.
A day or so later, she texts me to say she failed the citizenship test. I inform her that I did too and we should hope to be deported somewhere nice. A rant follows on the stupidity of the questions which, in her opinion, should be to name the Hogwarts houses or Dr Who assistants. we agree Danny Boyle should set the citizenship test.
It becomes clear that while C, L and I are away, their father is looking after K and J at something of a distance. He is absent much of the day and they spend their time at our house, not his. I am something of a cleaning obsessive and K often derides this. However, on Thursday, a text arrives from K. “I just used the phrase, it won’t clean itself you know. Help.” The phone bleeps again. “Read – I am so fed up of Js bullshit. Can I beat him to death with a shovel?”. It transpires that K is sick of the cooking mess J leaves behind him constantly. Like his father, he tells her I am too fussy about mess and she should not mind. She tells me nothing is clean and everything is terrible.
I imagine that the loss of a beloved son and criminal incarceration of an equally beloved daughter would not help L or me, and I call K. She is cross, but calms down. I know her threats of violence are not real – J has more to fear from her caustic wit and biting invective. She and L talk and I love to hear their sisterly chatter. They are polar opposites, but so close.
J does not text me, but he comments on Facebook and he calls for a chat. He is so much more self sufficient than he used to be. He texts C however and invites him to join him in growing beards. C agrees. I hate beards.
There are periods when I despair at how critically underweight L is and how hard it is to help. And there are times when life just goes on and the trauma of L’s illness is soothed by the idiosyncrasies of her brother and sister. Sometimes people talk about life going back to ‘normal’. I have no idea what this means……