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There is nothing I dread more than parental visits. That in itself is very sad. They are visits to be got through, to be endured, not to be enjoyed. I have to fight mentally to not revert to being a child, to remember that I can disagree or stay silent. It then takes me a couple of days to recover.

My father visits four times a year and my mother accompanies him on the birthday visit in May for 1sis and myself. Normally my father comes to us and he will spend some time with the children after which he and I will go out for a meal together which increasingly is filled with silence. It used to be my mother coming over regularly and my father who made the annual visit but since my mother and I drifted apart that has reversed.

I have over the last decade, with the help of therapy, moved from understanding through tolerance and acceptance to the realisation that we really just don’t have anything in common any more, other than blood. I’ve stopped trying and failing to move our relationships forward into something more positive.

The advantage of yesterday’s meeting was that we met up for a picnic and 1sis got together the ‘other’ family that we never see. This consisted of my mother’s brother, whose health is diminishing fast as he approaches 80. I thanked him for continuing to send my birthday cards which is our only point of contact. I’ve always liked him but we’ve never been close. His two offspring, my cousins, were there. I’ve always liked the daughter and we’ve had occasions of trying to keep in touch but it’s never really worked. We get on well together when we do see each other, without expecting much more which is good. It’s been probably 10 years since we last saw each other and I’m sure I have more children than I did. My other cousin I haven’t seen since he was an obnoxious teenager and really upset me on a holiday together at my grandmother’s. Our grandmother, even. I remember that anger and helplessness from some 30 years ago so vividly. He was a troubled young adult as well and caused his parents no end of anxiety but he’s grown up now with a family who all came along. He was warm and welcoming and I let my old grudge slide.

1sis organised this, as she has the last few gatherings which weren’t as big. She is the only one who feels a strong sense of family and a need to remind us all who the others are. I could argue that it’s because she’s adopted on my father’s side and there have been times when she hasn’t felt a fully qualified member of the family but actually I think it’s the way she is.

She also invited, and not for the first time, 1son’s father ex1. 1son had accidentally booked his first ever holiday and was therefore not present. I was fine with his father’s presence the first time 1sis invited him, but less so on each visit. He may be my son’s father but there are reasons we split up and we still get on best when contact is down the end of a telephone and no closer. He’s never acknowledged the pain he caused and still reminds me of my father. He has now not touched alcohol for some ten years and I do very much respect him for that. But he is still my ex.

He had boned, stuffed, smoked and cooked up a spread for the picnic that just served to remind me that he is obsessed with food in the same way as my father is and I couldn’t even say thank you to him for bringing it. Everyone gushed loudly about it. My mother said to me on a recent and rare telephone conversation (it was my birthday after all!) that food was the one thing my father really enjoyed. I realised suddenly that this was something he could get emotionally involved in without it answering back or being awkward in any way. What a perfect relationship.

Anyway my father and ex1 started bouncing around politics with my male cousin joining in and I was bored. I’ve heard it and know it. So I went and joined the women instead and had a more positive and enjoyable time, without the need for oneupmanship.

It was all over quite quickly. No one wanted to go for a walk on the heath which I had been anticipating and looking forward to so a grand total of 4 hours. Yes I did count.

I hardly spoke to my parents. They hardly spoke to me. Why do we bother. However it was such fun they’ve asked my sister to organise it again for next year. Joy.