My parents are opposites in the affection department. When far away, my father could barely stand to talk to me. I would phone and identify myself accurately but rather imprecisely (it’s your child) and my father would reply, “Talk to your mother.”
It was with no small trepidation that I greeted my parents. Was Ba mad at me? Would he be silent and severe? No. Not at all. Rather, he was quite affectionate, grasping me warmly by the shoulders, patting my Partner on the back, asking pertinent questions about our trip and being amused by our answers.
My mother, on the other hand, though also physically affectionate, started in immediately with a catalogue of my faults, which contrary to my own misguided hopes, have been getting longer as I age instead of shorter. First up, I wasn’t married. It seems a seriously, obviously committed long-term relationship is not good enough. She did try to answer some of my concerns about the whole marriage shebang (you can have a small wedding, you know, a non Vietnamese wedding, we won’t mind) but we’d had this conversation last time I was physically in her presence. Also, I was too dark, too skinny and much too childless. I had come to believe that, all those times on the telephone when she said she didn’t mind what I was up to as long as I was happy, she’d meant it. More fool me.
I know that the best I can expect is that I change; my attitude can change. Instead of that angry, headstrong, confrontational teenager, I could be a more mature 30-something. I could be, but I’m not. I remain a teenager (actually younger, perhaps five) in my interactions with my parents, and they, too, remain as they always have been: my father severe but deeply loving; my mother loving in her irrational contradictory unfathomable irritating way.
So, I’m no longer cycle-touring.
I have been in Australia for a few weeks and am re-settling in Melbourne. I’m still on borrowed internets, rather than my own. I have some stories to tell you and they will flow, as they always have, in my sporadic way.
This post’s title mimics lyrics by Will Sheff of Okkervil River’s Black Sheep Boy. The song kept playing inside my head in Brisbane.
The apposite lyrics are as follows:-
Here I am back home again
I’m here to rest.
All they ask is where I’ve been
knowing I’ve been west.