It’s quiet in my house this morning.
In the film The Family Man, high-powered businessman Nicolas Cage is given a ‘glimpse’ by his guardian angel of how his life would have been if he hadn’t dumped Tea Leoni (one of the least plausible events even by the standards of Cage’s bizarre filmography) to go to London and make his fortune. He is shown the family he would have had, the path his career would have taken and basically what might have been.
This morning, with the two kids who live at home both away, it feels like my guardian angel is giving me a glimpse of the life I should have had, and will have again. For a lot of the last year, it’s felt like someone has been trying to ask me “Who are you kidding? What made you think you were supposed to be a husband and father?” And now this morning they’re saying “This is you, this is what you were meant to be. Three more years and I’ll have you back on track.”
Problem is, the guardian angel hasn’t factored in the couple of decades where he got sloppy and let things slide. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to meet a cute, mixed-up girl who was so keen to have kids she was willing to take me on as well to make it happen; but I did. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to father four kids who all turned out far better than anyone could have expected: one so strong-headed and self-assured that he lives on the other side of the world and only feels the need to get in touch about once a month, one so driven and ambitious that there was never any doubt he’d get where he wanted to be, one with music so deeply ingrained that I’ve already had to promise to bequest my CD collection, and one with such a black sense of humour that, if memory serves me right, he has plans to attend my funeral wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Ha ha you are dead” and a sash proclaiming “I am the bestest”. (He’s already had the sash printed. It’s hanging up in my room.) And, yes, most of what’s good about them they get from their mother, but that’s fine. I was there too.
So if the future is supposed to be a return to the life I had before all that happened, well, tough, it can’t be. Because pretty much the only thing those four kids have in common is that they all think I’m great. Which is an uncharacteristic piece of self-aggrandisement for me, but that’s the truth of it – when it came to being a Dad, I more or less nailed it. One way or another, be it by email or social media post or (who knows) they might even phone once in a while, those kids will always be around. Bad luck life. You let me off the leash for too long.
So yes, it’s quiet in my house this morning. And in three years, when the last one leaves, it will be quiet a lot. But not all the time.
The film The Family Man is a sweet, funny look at the travails of that existence. But it’s no sweeter or funnier than mine has been living it for real.