Thursday, 3 December 2009

End of an Era December 2nd 2009

End of an era.

None of us were to know that last Christmas would be my dad’s final Christmas in his old home, before he moved into residential care in April this year.
I was staying with him for a week before he came to us eventually on December 21st
But he had flu and did not really remember much about Christmas after that at all.
I had taken a small artificial Christmas tree, and lights, up there with me to have some sense of festive cheer, and hung his cards on the wall. My mum loved Christmas and she would shop for weeks, squirreling things away, saying it would “come in handy” or stockpiling nuts, dates and fruit! boxes of biscuits and other treats.
Each time she went down to the small town she would climb back up the hill again with loaded bags of assorted sizes, unless she came up on the bus, which just stopped a short distance from the door. It was a single decker serving the three estates, which are situated on three sides of the valley. A circular route.
So, we could time our visit to my aunt’s by catching the bus as it was on its way to the next estate. It would meander its way down to the centre of town and then stop to disgorge the passengers, whilst those of us staying on, paid again for the next stage.

And now, I drive those routes myself. I never thought when I was younger that I would live in the Midlands let alone drive a car. Why is it that when we are older, life seemed less complicated then? It wasn’t of course. To the young, who have the wonderful security of two loving parents, and a welcoming home, as we did, some of the struggles which went on in people’s lives would pass unnoticed, until we became of an age to understand it more fully.

Life in its rawness had not touched us then, that was to happen later.

But, to go back to the beginning, which is about dad’s old home.

Yesterday, 2nd December, it was handed over to its next occupants, who happen to live in the same road and have bought it for their daughter. We like that sense of continuity. Dad knows the family.
That indeed is the end of an era, but I began to think back through the years we all lived there, having moved from a small terraced house further up the valley. I was 13 and my sister 8 years old.
It felt so light and spacious and we had a garden. I loved the garden, and it was a positive suntrap at the back in the summer, on days when the sun shone!
Dad began to grow his roses, which he nurtured and tended. They rewarded him with glorious blooms. Mum liked bedding plants and we would have antirrhinums, petunias, begonias and tubs of splashing colour.
After my mum died in August 1990, when the roses were as beautiful as I’ve ever known them, dad still kept up with his gardening, when he could, and also with help from others. He had two hanging baskets at the front door each summer and tubs of bedding plants.
As he became unable to manage it was hard to watch the roses suffer.

So, a new address for him, and one where he feels “at home” and cared for so well.

But my memories are there in each room. Even the sound the various doors made. The glass vestibule door into the kitchen, the front door when it finally shut, which rattled the letterbox, and the garden gate, closing with the familiar metallic click.
If walls could speak, what conversations and dramas they would unfold!!
My old room on the front looked up the valley to the north. I could see the lights on the hillsides twinkling at night. On wet days often the hills would be shrouded in mist.
It is strange what springs to mind.
Snatches of moments in time,…………
I can see our kitchen on a Sunday morning as we came back from church, (further up the valley at that time) having walked either across the fields opposite or along the main road and up the hill.
My mum always had so many pans on the go at once, boiling cabbage, carrots, potatoes, (before roasting them,) and sometimes cauliflower, which I could take or leave(!) that the window would be open and if it was a nice day, the back door.
The smells of Sunday roast wafting outside.
We would always sit down together on a Sunday for roast dinner. And I still do not know anyone yet, who can make gravy quite like my mum’s! She made it using a Tupperware plastic beaker with a lid, to mix it first, a bit like she was shaking a cocktail!! Using the meat juices and flour.
After a lovely dinner there was always pudding. Sponge pudding or steamed pudding, apple pie, or a stomach filler of an apple suet steamed pudding!!

These steamed ones used to make the kitchen walls run with condensation! They were done in a steamer pan with a lid, sitting on top of a pan with boiling water on the go. It took for ever. But the end result was extremely satisfying.

My sister was good at cooking, and also at organisation. She went on to do an Hotel and Catering Course at College of FE. So, as you can imagine, two women in a kitchen is bad enough, three is a definite no go! And anyway, I freely admit it all mystified me. I liked being outside, or doing something else. I was often told I used to play the piano after Sunday lunch to avoid the washing up! I leave you to judge for yourselves.
Dad would ask me to play a tune, so I obliged!
It was a house where people popped in and were given a cup of tea. Or they would stop at the gate and chat, if either mum or dad was outside. Then they would be asked “Would you like a cup of tea?”
Friends came to visit. Relatives came to visit. Our friends came and were always given a real welcome and usually a massive tea!

It has been a happy house, even though it has seen some extremely sad times, and difficulties. My dad always said in the years he has lived there latterly, as he had found it harder to cope,
“I always know when I go in through the door and close it behind me, that I am safe. I’m back at home”.

The other week, as I was taking him back to his new home, after lunch out at a nearby pub, he suddenly said to me, when I told him we had reached the end of the road where his care home is situated
“We’re nearly back home then. “

I said I was glad he felt like that.
He said to me
“It’s home to me now, and I feel pampered to death in it” So, although the
re is sadness, there is a sense of peace for dad who has been able to move on.