When I was younger I always dreamed of becoming Doris Day when I grew up. I think it was the effortless cheer and sparkling-optimism-in-the-face-of-adversity ... oh and those lovely tight-waisted, wide-swingy skirts of course.
She just shone, didn't she?
I'm not sure how I'd have coped with the endless dancing and singing, though. I'd have to have had equally endless preparation I guess - but then in 'real life', you can prepare as much as you like and still meet with the slap of a wet haddock across the face when you least expect it.
Or Ma Walton.
If the Doris Day position had been filled, then being the Matriarch of Walton's mountain would have been my fall-back career of choice. All that good-humour. All those family values. All that small-town camaraderie and support in the face of... well, more adversity I guess. And the only set-back would've been having to give birth to a thousand and one offspring. Which I didn't really give much consideration to when I was younger. After all, babies were still found in cabbage patches back then and delivered by Stork - the bird, I mean, not the margarine manufacturer.
But since The Girl's been in my life, my original choice of Hero has been pretty much entirely overshadowed. And sometimes I can't believe my good fortune.
Not only is she beautiful, funny, intelligent, kind and sensitive, but she has endured so much in her tender 16 years that I'm sure I'd have had small emotional breakdowns over, had any of these happened to me whilst I was growing up.
Her paternal grandfather died when she was 18 months old. And even though I'm sure she understood that he wasn't around anymore, I'm equally certain it wasn't a case of incredible make-believe when she used to 'hold his hand' as we walked to the shops some afternoons (after he'd died). Seriously - she would have her left hand raised a little like she was holding a(nother) hand on the other side of us and even look up from time to time and smile at... well, nobody that I could see anyway. The most disconcerting part of this walk was when she stopped, turned around and waved, telling me "Nonno's gone now" and then we'd continue our walk - just the two of us.
My Mum died when the Girl was nearly five.She remembers her well. She even remembers how she offered Gramma some chocolate the night she died and how Gramma tried to refuse it, claiming she had to watch her weight. Such a young age to learn the art of Irony.
And in the following year, she left the home she grew up in when her father and I separated. Even though our Divorce wasn't a pleasant affair and she had to learn to accept Daddy's new wife and all the restrictions and crap that entailed (along with finding she also had a step-sister) she never flipped the once. There was sadness, of course. And questions - and I always managed to make them honest but not recriminatory - I didn't want her to grow up with a twisted, embittered, wronged woman. In hindsight, my mantra could've been "What would Doris do?". Smile prettily, twirl about a bit and believe that Tomorrow would be better.
And it always was. With her, it couldn't have been anything else.
She doesn't have my Arachnophobic tendencies. When a (mahoosive) spider crawled up the curtains in our new home one evening, she pointed delightedly, informed me of the creeping thing behind my shoulder and watched as I somehow overcame my usual petrifying fear of the things, pretending I thought nothing of picking it up (with a tissue, obviously) and calmly put it outside. I remember crying and shaking with fear, alone later, after the adrenalin had worn off.
Six years later, aged 11, she held my hand tightly, standing beside me in the church as I gave the Eulogy at my Dad's funeral. Without her presence I'd have buckled and broken. My dad and I had become more like best friends since my mum died and the shock of him dying and the gap he left behind was - is - gaping. She knew this. She still does.
For the 9 years we spent, just us two living together in united womanhood, she kept me going. Whenever I felt that life was getting just that little bit too much to bear, all I had to do was steal a glance at her and that's all I needed.
She's never thrown tantrums. She's never demanded anything. She's never cried to get her own way. She's never threatened, abused, lied, stolen, broken any laws and she always tells me if she's worried or upset about anything.
Of course there was no question that she'd be beside me when I married the man of my Dreams. And I'm so proud that she's been with her boyfriend now for nearly 2 years now and they're such an incredibly 'together' couple that it makes the pathetic attempts I had at 'boyfriends' at 16... well, pathetic, frankly. I couldn't even apply my mascara properly.
So today when she was lying underneath the glare of a theatre spotlight and having her scalp sliced into with a surgical knife, I felt I could be forgiven for wanting to break down and weep that she shouldn't have to endure this. Because she's had to get through so much stuff in her short life already, that if I could have, I'd have had the surgery that she was having to undergo, instead of her.
I'm sorry to have to break this to you, Doris, but your services have sadly not been required for pretty much the last 16 years. You see, I found me a Real Hero. And she doesn't expect me to drop everything and start twirling about in a springy yellow frock to the tune of 'Que Sera Sera'... even though the sentiments aren't entirely lost on us, you'll understand.