For a long while there, Mum would drive my little brother to and from his job (he had lost his licence after a string of bad decisions). Considering where they were living at the time, this was a considerable effort – a round-trip of well over an hour, and about 80km in distance.
But each afternoon, Mum would bring him a surprise. They called this a ‘surprise’ every day – yet the result never differed: A can of coke, and a Mars Bar.
To my Mum these drives together meant that she could hear about his day, and his work and about his plans. She could ask questions and because he was stuck in the car for 40km, he had no choice but to answer and to talk. Mum always said that the best conversations happen when there is common task being shared – like doing the dishes, or in this case, while driving together in a car.
I think this time they shared together brought them much closer – and while others thought Mum was rewarding his bad behaviour by offering him a solution to a problem he caused, I think Mum saw this as an opporuntity to help heal my brother. To care for him in a safe, arms-length way – from across the car as they drove twice a day together, for many, many months. If it hadn’t been for this action from my Mum – my brother would have lost his job and who knows what would have come next. Mum knew this was the best way to keep him on the right path but did it in a way that meant he wasn’t aware of the control she was still exerting over his life, nor was he aware how much he was talking to Mum as they drove.
I have no doubt that this drive, and the ‘surprise’ they shared each day, saved my brother.
Years later, and even now, when my brother asks us to bring him a surprise – we know what we need to buy.