I missed my Christmas Day visit to see Mum. It felt wrong not to set off at about half past eight on Christmas morning, after a hasty breakfast, returning with Mum’s cousin Pam in time for lunch. Now both of them have left us, leaving me with a slightly empty feeling. I miss them both but those feelings are magnified at this time of year. Christmas mornings in the last few years have been spent on the motorway, revisiting my childhood courtesy of Junior Choice on BBC Radio 2. I saw no reason to break my listening habit but pulled up short when someone the song about those mice in the windmill in the Dutch capital, a song so beloved of Mum is her final months. Tears flowed, tears of sadness and tears of joy of an unlikely but laughter-filled connection made late in the day. Mum would smile with unconfined pleasure as she bellowed “Where” in the chorus and for a fleeting moment, all made sense.
So a different Christmas for me, albeit one with Mum in my thoughts as ever. For many people, though, Christmas Day 2017 was remarkably similar to any of the 358 days which had preceded it this year. For those whose duty is care, paid or unpaid, there is no break from the routine. I had a message from a friend whose father is living with dementia and who is now coming with a diagnosis of terminal cancer as well. So, Christmas Day was spent at a hospital. Another friend was caring for his mother after a pre-Christmas fall. Many things halt temporarily for Christmas, caring doesn’t.
It would be lovely to think that the debt our country owes to all carers will be reflected in the New Year’s Honours List which will be published in the coming days. There’s already an unholy row about an expected knighthood for a former prominent politician, to be honoured for no-one seems quite sure what. Wouldn’t it be lovely if extraordinary people who bring dignity to the lives of those who are fast losing theirs, who put their own lives on hold to love and cherish family members, who carry a burden politicians too often choose to ignore, if those extraordinary people are told by us all how much we value them. For once, they could be in the spotlight.
I won’t be holding my breath.