Setting out cheese and crackers for lunch, I turned to pick up some tomatoes. There were only three of the plum tomatoes left. Sainsbury’s don’t always have in stock the Sundream or Majestic varieties I like, so if I ate them today there might be none for the lunchbox tomorrow.
Three tomatoes are a reminder of a story told by Bob Mortimer. In one episode of Gone Fishing, the series in which he and Paul Whitehouse reflected on the meaning of life, Bob Mortimer talked about the ways of his mother. He was discussing the importance of routines, on how daily habits could play a part in sustaining good emotional health. He talked about how his mother might go to the shop each day to buy three tomatoes. Of course, she might have bought enough for the week, but that would have meant the daily visit to the supermarket would become unnecessary.
In his appearance on Desert Island Discs two years ago, Bob Mortimer talked about the central part in his life played by his mother, dedicating one of his selections, It Must be love, to her. The Madness song is about the feelings of a young man who is missing his erstwhile girlfriend, but for Mortimer the song becomes an expression of the sense of loss he felt at the death of his mother:
I never thought I’d miss you
Half as much as I do
And I never thought I’d feel this way
The way I feel
As soon as I wake up
Every night, every day
I know that it’s you I need
To take the blues away
Bob Mortimer’s father died when Bob Mortimer was a boy of seven, his mother had become both parents to him, the person who helped him to become the person he became, the person who remained of vital significance to him throughout the years.
On Fathers’ Day, what really seems to matter is not the gender of the parent, but in having a sense of gratitude for all of the goodness and loving kindness received through the years. What seems to matter is to have a Mortimer-like willingness to acknowledge the love that is felt for the person and to be prepared to admit to the gaping void that appears in one’s life when they are no longer there to turn to for guidance, encouragement and love.
Thinking of loved ones now absent, many of us would share the first line of that song, “I never thought I’d miss you . . .”