I'm currently working on a fascinating project to put online a great collection of letters from my father written during 1945 and therefore covering the end of the war with Germany and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan - and I'll put up a link just as soon as I get started on the text. But in preparation for starting I've been reading these letters, and I've been learning.
Two things leap to mind. The first is of interest, probably, only to me: I was going to be called Caroline Mary. The initials are the same - but I can't so far find out when I became the me that I know instead. The other, however, is more profound. I was wondering why I knew so little about my own parents, so little about what they thought about the big things. I realised that in fact it was because I hadn't asked the right questions - especially of my father, who died when I was 32. Ok, you say - you were an adult. What stopped you asking the questions?
And the answer is, I think, that I didn't know what questions to ask. I also lacked the confidence to ask them. I don't think I became that confident questioner until ... well, until now, I suppose. I simply didn't know enough. They were my parents, and that was enough - a kind of force-field prevented my straying too far, and I didn't know the way anyway. So that feeling that keeps coming over me - the idea that we waste our parents, the resources that they represent - is something I have to recognise and, to quote Larkin, clothe as destiny. Maybe we are all destined to "waste" our parents; to dismiss their recollections as old hat or irrelevant, to assume that we know it all without recourse to their wisdom. Maybe the force-field is omnipresent between the generations, and maybe it is inevitable and even necessary.
So I forgive myself my thoughtlessness, and will attempt to make amends to myself now. And while I'm at it, I shall keep on growing up.