emptying

It came to pass that Handsome Husband went to live with his sisters. The house in the oakland was to be sold.

But first, the stuff. A house with a lot of storage space holds a lot. The Brother and I set to with the help of many black plastic bags, a huge car boot, and the wonderful St Vincent de Paul charity. SVP are long established and work  “to fight poverty in all its forms through the practical assistance to people in need.” What I didn’t grasp until a few weeks ago, is how easy they can make a challenging task. From the first phone call, to the lorry driving away  10 days later, and multiple donation trips to the shop, they gave us kindness, humour, gentleness, and quiet support. We just gave them stuff.

I’d been most concerned about the back bedroom. Boxes went in there when we cleared Herself’s room in the nursing home, and hadn’t been touched since. These boxes took on mythical proportions in my mind. They weren’t just literal boxes, they were metaphorical boxes. What mental chaos would be uncovered? Imagine my relief when they contained an awful lot of out of date toiletries and hangers. The biggest, scariest box held only hangers. Hundreds of them. Too many to count. Even SVP didn’t want them. I’d been wasting anxiety energy worrying about a box of hangers. I was on a roll for a day or so after that. I only laughed at the chest of drawers filled with wrapping paper and ornaments.

I made my way through the room to reach a trolley (recently pretending to be shelves) and pottered back and forth to the garage- wheeeling the bags, posing in a 70s hostess style on the way back. We remembered the glory days of the trolley, with pavlova and grey glass bowls. The trolley collapsed under the strain and expectation of movement before long, but I was glad to have had it, and to have recalled its prime.

Of course, the back bedroom wasn’t the worst. It was all the random, carefully packed, bits of paper filling the fitted wardrobe space in the main bedroom. Years of cards, letters, wedding invitations. 5 orders of service from the one wedding. A letter written to Herself in the weeks after the Omagh bomb. Lots of notes written by herslf as she tried to figure out whether living in Spain with a Dutchman was really for her. (You already know the answer to that.)

The auntie wondered what we’d do with the fire brasses. We hadn’t seen those in years. They got found eventually, in the bottom of the cloakroom, underneath the tennis racket, badminton racket, squash racket, golf practice sets, Nora’s bowls, vacuum cleaner, dusters and all the coats.

We’d donated the regular clothes some time ago, but held on to the good clothes. They still didn’t fit me. I looked at the tweed suit, the respectable going to wedding outfits, Herself’s style, and I phoned the fancy second hand shop. “Designer or top end of the high street only. Must be less than one year old.” Less than a year old? That’s not style, that’s just shopping. Decent style in a size too small for me may be found at Vincent’s.

The chaise lounge went to a cousin. One took chairs and a bookcase. Another, drawers and a lamp. Aunties have ornaments, or a table, or a  different lamp that had a whole other adventure. The Brother and I have the items we wanted. The enormous desk- an huge civil service item from the 50s- had to be dismantled, and then the door taken off, to get out of the back bedroom. SVP are holding on to that one.

This house was never home to the Brother or me. But Herself was so happy there, so full of plans. Plans to learn languages, computer skills, book keeping. We found all the text books. Handsome Husband moved in when they married; we found the actual plans they’d got drawn up for a new home for them both.

Instead, illness happened. Herself is gone a while now, nearly 6 years. I still find that remarkable. The space we’ve been allowed between her death and the house clearing was undoubtedly helpful. We laughed more than we cried. We grumbled without guilt.

And now that house belongs to other people. Sale agreed and completed much more quickly than we had any right to expect. A huge task finished promptly and efficiently.When does that ever happen?

It just feels weird.

pesky pets

Pah!

It’s not been a good day.

The grumpy old chap who had such a large part of all our hearts died  today. All of a sudden. He wasn’t in form- he had no oomph- and we were going to phone the vet for an appointment, when he just keeled over.

Spurs Fan demonstrated heretofore hidden agressive driving techniques, but it was too late. Jake didn’t make it to the vet. He was gone by the time we got there; he was undoubtedly gone before his head hit the floor, but we didn’t want to believe that.

We came home empty handed.

As with all things, it could have been worse. He could have been home alone. I could have been the only person here. Our friends who looked after him on Monday night and Tuesday morning could have found him. Instead, because it’s half term, we were all at home. We were able to satisfy the urge to do something, however pointless. We were able to pet him and hold him and talk to him.

He’s never been in great health, but when he was checked out last week, all he needed was an antibiotic, which cleared up his tum issues. We expected him to keep on pottering about for a good while yet.

My days at home will be longer and lonely.

I just made a toasted cheese sandwich and had no gentle nudge on my leg. No shake, stretch, or pitter patter when the fridge door was opened. When I leave the house in a little while I’ll not say “Bye, Jake. You’re in charge.”  I’ll not need to check on him first thing, or wonder where the poo is, or forget to let him in. He won’t knock over the footballer gnome (doesn’t everybody have one?) or stand in exactly the wrong place in the teeny kitchen. He won’t choose the bits of newspaper for the fire, or complain about the  television. He won’t or sniff every leaf, or grumble at each passing dog.

He came to us when he was about 8, a lifetime behind him. He needed a quiet house, with somebody about most of the time. He didn’t like fuss or noise or contact he didn’t initiate.

He was our wee old man, who got the blame for all the random smells.

He was one of us.

The wee pet.

starting over

The holidays are finishing, decorations are waiting for the boxes, schedules are reappearing from under the mince pies and wine.

There are no ‘resolutions’. We muddle through and do the best we can, even if we sometimes try to shift our focus to different aspects. There’s no need to resolve to do that; it’s “do or do not”.

Our ‘all the good things’ jar has started re stocking. I love this random collection of  notes about good events gathered up during the year. We had several notes about Girl2’s netball team winning a regional competition, a note of clothes drying weather last March, and a reference to the circa 1985 souvenir from Knock sunvisor we were gifted during the summer. Not what you’d find in most of the reviews of 2016. We can go for ages without adding things, and some of the stuff reflects otherwise forgotten moments (Speccy lost some weight!!!) causing New Year hilarity.

I have a pristine work book ready to start the year. I love new note books, and always aim to be neat this time. That never works. I’m incapable of neat. Neat doesn’t have arrows and squiggles to join up thinking, or asterixes to remind me of the important stuff. When I grow up I’m going to take neat notes on a tablet, and know what they mean the next week.

Our charity has a million tasks to complete in the next few months, and, prior to the break I was feeling overwhelmed. How could we do it all? What would happen if we couldn’t meet the challenge? What if my brain stopped working and I couldn’t be an effective Chair? I’ve spent some time sleeping and reading and hanging out with my people and those issues haven’t crossed my mind. Now they’re back and I know I can handle them, with a bit of planning. I need to switch off. I need to read more books, listen to more music, take more walks, if the overwhelm is to stay away.

I can do that. Reading is good for me.

Happy 2017, bloggy buddies. Plan to be good to yourselves.

it’s not rare to have a rare disease

My volunteering life is about rare disease; I know the stats, I know some of the people. When I have brain power, a significant portion of it goes to scheming and plotting and connecting and advocating and talking about rare disease. It’s not an abstract, it’s the reality of people’s lives. It’s the kick in the gut when we see a family on a flight, on their  way back from Great Ormond Street, or we spot the specialist wheelchair in the shopping centre. It’s the reiteration of experience when we listen to people tell their stories, which could be ours. It’s the blow when there’s another diagnosis of something complex or terminal. It’s the shock when we lose one, however predictable that loss.

We lost one tonight.

My Uncle Paddy. With Olive for over 60 years, father to the Incredible Singing Cousins, grandfather to The Next Generation. A kind, gentle, and much loved man.

He had Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, the rare neurological condition that killed his sister, my mother Herself, and a family friend, Kathleen. Three people from the same parish, all connected, all with the same rare condition which is difficult to diagnose, and for which there is no treatment or cure.

I can rant about many things. I can talk sensibly about rare disease issues. But, it seems, not tonight. Tonight, I’ve run out of all the words I use. Tonight, I miss my people. Tonight , I grieve with my people.