It’s a few minutes before eleven pm. I’m tired. And worried. I think of my son Afonso who’s in hospital, recovering from his second operation – actually by now mostly waiting for the results of the microbiology tests he has underwent to determine what caused the infection in his operation scar. It’s been more than two months since his accident during a rugby match and two since his first operation. It’s been tough on him and we, his parents, are suffering just to see him so desperate about, as he puts it, “getting his life back”.
An unexpected call
I have finished tidying the kitchen and think of heading to bed when my cell phone rings. I wonder who it may be at this hour, when I see a familiar name on the screen. It is António, one of Afonso’s best friends who has just arrived from six months in Taiwan where he has been doing the equivalent of an Erasmus programme. The last time I saw him was last summer, when I organised a surprise dinner for Afonso to celebrate his second university degree, just before he left for Bali on holidays.
António is a cheerful boy, always has been. I have known him since he was ten, when he and Afonso, together with another inseparable friend, were pre-teenagers, going to school and playing rugby together. They used to spend holidays with us at our beach apartment and having it filled with a group of boisterous, messy boys, starting with my own sons of course – I still shiver when I remember how untidy they left their bedroom – was a lot of work, but I loved to have them around. Especially, talks at dinner time would go on for hours and broach all possible subjects, and this went on year after year so in the end they were part of the family. They all called me Auntie, of course, and I grew to love them as the nephews I never had.
I was so glad to hear him! I knew he would be arriving these days. He asked about Afonso, of course, and I told him what has been happening these last few months; he already knew, as they have naturally been chatting through WhatsApp. He told me he wasn’t calling him straight away because it would be too late, and I agreed.
A long conversation
Then we talked. About so many things. He told me how he had loved being in Taiwan, how much at home he had felt and how sorry he was to leave at the end of the six month-period; he told me how much he admired one particular teacher, who is a recognised expert in – is it concrete, or some other building material? And how important it was for him to have studied under his supervision; about his travels, to Hong Kong and Macao, Vietnam, Malaysia – a few of which he did with his mother and brothers who went to visit him – and lately to Thailand with his girlfriend, adding “This time, Auntie, I didn’t see any temples, I was actually fed up with them, it was plainly lying on the beach and getting a lot of sun. Did you know I have a great tan?” I said I did, I had seen his photo with a dark face and a huge moustache. Then talk derived to other matters, to his girlfriend whom I haven’t personally met but who said I was very easy to relate to – I helped with her travel insurance – and when he said he might want to get married I was surprised; maybe because I still see them – now 25 year olds – as the boys I met so many years ago; sometimes it feels like my sons and their friends live in a Never Never land where, like Peter Pan, they will never grow up… Then I remind myself it’s time to see them for what they are, grown men who are finishing their studies or beginning their careers, soon to open their wings and fly away…
Marriage is always a good topic, so we discussed it for a bit. He said he’d like to marry one day, but has some misgivings as so many marriages end in divorce… I philosophically shared with him my view, that “nothing lasts forever, much less a romantic relationship”, adding that most important of all is that it feels good while it lasts. And then wondered if I was being too cynical, after all these young people still have to live their dreams, and believe in something, so I tried to soften a bit and told him that love is always worth it, for it is incomparable while it lasts. Talking about divorce and custody we mentioned how good it is when ex-couples maintain a good relationship, even if for the sake of their children, and he commented that Miguel and I are an example of a happy ex couple, always there, together, for our children. Like in these past few months, supporting the boys and each other as we have always done.
Then he asked about my book, and I told him I’m working hard to have it published by Summer, and he declared he will read it; we talked about work, and the changes in my life, the plans he has for his, and so many things that I really cannot remember them all.
When, after almost an hour, we finally hung up; he promised that, when Afonso is recovered and he is past his self-imposed quarantine period regarding the Coronavirus (as he has come from Asia), he will come over for dinner so that we can all relive those happy moments of years ago around the table on those seemingly endless summer nights; nights that, as teenagers, only ended for them around 6 am, when I unfailingly heard them come in (as much as they tried not to make any noise), raid the fridge and then go to bed to sleep until the afternoon. The worst was the smell of stale drink they left in the hall, that almost “poisoned” me as I headed for the kitchen to make breakfast… I believe it actually intoxicated me!
I looked at my watch. God, how late it was! But it didn’t matter, for this talk had done me the world of good. Dear, joyful, happy Antonio had done the trick. Our long talk – and I can’t remember having such a long phone talk in a long time – reminded me that not only do I have friends my age, my dear lifelong friends, but have made new friends among my son’s friends as well, and that fills me with satisfaction. I’m happy they enjoy talking to me, and I love to listen to their ideas about life. When you listen to young people you become younger again. I’ve enjoyed their music – some songs on my Spotify list are proof of that, from great bands such as the Arctic Monkeys or The Strokes I would have never known but for them; we have discussed life and love and all sorts of philosophical ideas. And I’m a happy mother of sons who have been blessed with such good friends.
In the end, this friendly phone call made my evening. Still tired, but no longer stressed or in a worried mood, I laughed to myself as I recalled old stories of this group of boys I dearly love.