"Oh dear", I said.
"What is it?" Beloved asked.
"Nothing. Everything"' I replied.
"That's sad", he said.
I was sitting at the kitchen table. We'd finished a simple supper, but there had been a glass of wine. The kitchen was warm and still, the lamp was pulled low over the table and we sat in a cosy pool of light. I had the perpetual birthday calendar in front of me. It's gardener's birthday in the next few days and I was making sure that I wouldn't miss it. At the hairdresser's this morning two women were talking about the imminent arrival of Christmas. "Less than five weeks to go," one of them said. "I know. Have you got a lot left to do?" the other one said. "No, I'm all finished. I've done most of it over the internet. John's girls want money, my sister's kid is six and you can get a six year old anything; my mum and dad were easy, so was my sister, and I've got a few bits and pieces from the shops for hubby and the boys, mainly vouchers and stuff. The boys want to do their own shopping."
Studying the calendar, this overheard conversation came into my head. I scanned the next two months ahead for birthday dates. "Do you realise Jack will be eighteen in January?" "No, really? Golly, that's amazing." "Will you do something special?" "I shouldn't think so."
When my grandsons turned eighteen I gave them a larger money present than usual. "I think I'll stop sending them money once they're twenty-one; they're hardly aware of my existence, they rarely say thank you and they've certainly never given me anything."
We have six children between us, all adults, and no really meaningful contact with any of them. Christmas and birthday cards, a few phone calls, and the odd duty visit from three of them, that's about it. Two of them we haven't seen for years. It's nobody's fault, it just happened. Divorce, moving house, jobs, imagined slights, a grudge having taken hold, even differing attitudes to life, religion, etc., but mainly a general lack of closeness. It never used to bother me, but now it breaks my heart when I think of it.
We already have tentative plans for the festive season, we are sure to see friends, we always do. We may have an email nearer the time from one of the sons announcing a flying visit; on the other hand, we may not. I'd prefer not, I hate duty visits.
"Yes, I want to pull the roof over my head and not hear or see anything any more. Just wait for death."
"Yes, my dear, I know. It's November. November makes everybody feel sad."
I got up and put the calendar back on its nail.
"Will you get a card for gardener in the morning?"