A family weekend

Meet The FockersOn Friday night we went for dinner at my sister’s house. Her daughter Abby recently became engaged to Jonny and she had arranged a dinner to welcome his parents, the future in-laws, who were staying in Harrogate. “Aunty Doo Doo”, as my sister is known to the family, does nothing by halves. Her dinner, which was served for 16 people, was beautiful in every way, down to the handwritten place cards.

Our parents have been staying at her home, following my mum’s recent stay in hospital.

The lovely Ruby, who is my mum’s devoted carer, is also staying there. So on Friday night the roll call was extensive: Aunty Doo Doo, her husband, their daughter and fiancé; his parents; our parents and Ruby; my brother and his family, us and their two dogs. What the future in- laws thought of us, in the midst of complete chaos, where we all had to pitch in I can’t begin to imagine.

“Did you ever see the movie Meet The Fockers?” I asked them at one point, thinking of the film in which Ben Stiller’s in-laws meet his wacky family. Although they had not, and this was their first visit to meet us, they took the madness in good part – even when my sister’s two little dogs burst through the French doors into the dining room and ran under the table to play with the guests’ legs. As we were leaving, my husband’s big feet sent the dogs’ water bowl in the hall flying and soaked the carpet. Abby and Jonny, madly in love, sailed through it all, oblivious. Jonny has turned out to be a perfect fit for the family. He’s seen us au naturel for some time now and never flinched. Long may he stay that way!

As for me, I was tired out. Last week was as hectic a week as I can remember. Our firm’s PR company, Tinderbox Media, leapt into action when the Kernott v Jones judgment was handed down on Wednesday. I was despatched to London and I appeared on BBC Breakfast the next morning, and also wrote a half-page editorial with advice for cohabiting couples, which appeared in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday.

There was no time for praise, or discussion at dinner. There was too much going on.  Mum fights a daily battle to keep going. She amazes me with her resilience and bravery: how does she manage to keep her spirits up? She and my dad sat and smiled through the chaotic dinner. They were clearly delighted to be surrounded by the family and the future in laws. Dad is nearly 80, but copes wonderfully and always has a brave face despite his fears and concerns.

He has himself become something of a “mini celebrity” recently. The photograph of him running with Sir Jimmy Savile (below) has appeared in a number of local newspapers, submitted by others who were also in the picture. He smiled when everyone teased him at dinner about being famous. I told the future in-laws about his brilliant marathon running career (Dad has run more than 50 marathons in his time) and they were clearly impressed.

Sir Jimmy Savile marathonThe conversation turned to my hobby of going to spinning classes at the local gym. I told them my favourite lesson of the week was coming up on Sunday morning, with an instructor who is also trained in Thai boxing and gets the class cycling faster, harder and reaching higher levels than the rest. He is fantastic.

It’s funny how coincidences happen. As I was leaving the spinning class on Sunday, I thanked the instructor. Out of the blue he asked me how my father was. I have no idea how he knew the connection, perhaps he saw him in the Jimmy Savile photos in the press. Anyhow it turns out that 20 years ago, when a youngster he used to wash dad’s car. He lived with his mum behind the local pizza restaurant, and he recalled dad being “a real gentleman”. He said some great things about Dad and asked me to pass on his best wishes, although he thought that Dad would probably have forgotten him.

Forgotten him? Dad remembered him in a flash. “Nice lad”, he said. “They had it tough. He lost his father quite young. Very nice lad.” He said nothing more and didn’t need to. My dad is a very decent man.

So Jonny, what kind of family are you marrying into? Do you need to panic? I don’t think so.  Consider this from me, (one of its more mature members) to you. This weekend my dear father had, unspoken, taught me another important lesson in life about values that really count.

It’s very exciting to appear on TV, to appear in national newspapers and to receive positive comments afterwards, all in one week. But none of that can ever compare to acts of decency and kindness that survive in the hearts and memories of others for twenty years.

Thanks Dad.

Marilyn Stowe

The senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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4 comments

Jonny - November 15, 2011 at 12:50pm

Great blog and a great weekend! x

jason @ personal injury lawyer - November 19, 2011 at 4:26am

At last – someone who makes my family seem normal! At least we don’t have dogs! (Well my mother-in-law does, and her boyfriemnd and they go EVERYWHERE with them – and I mean everywhere)

It was fun reading it. Thank You

Marilyn Stowe - November 19, 2011 at 11:29am

Thanks Jason
I’m writing a lot about my family at the moment because I’m very conscious of what they are going through and extremely impressed with how they cope.
My life is very different. I have a law firm to run in different parts of the country with all it’s attendant issues.
Writing about the family is my way of showing that I do care, I do notice, I do participate as much as I can and above all I love them very much and I’m very proud of them too.
Marilyn

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