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 Imagine my relief when they contained an awful lot of out of date toiletries and hangers.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.

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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.

surprisingly beautiful

Smug, arrogant, pompous- those are some of the politer words applied to the band U2. They gave away their last album, just because they could. Anyone with an iTunes account got it, and many were really, really annoyed. Such presumption! And then there’s Bono. A peacock in leather and Cuban heels. He thinks he is somebody, with all the jetting round the world to save people, and all that pontificating! Why would anybody take U2 seriously?

Because they are musicians and showmen who give their all, and who keep finding ways to touch hearts. I’ve seen them several times since 1983 and am always surprised. Last night, for the first time, I called their work beautiful. Nobody was more surprised at this than me.

It’s partly the fault of the free album. Boy was the first album I went into a shop and bought for me, with my own money. I invested in that one. The Joshua Tree was a constant for a while. Many memories have that as a soundtrack. Decades later, Songs of Innocence turned up on the laptop and I paid no attention. It was there, I’d listen to it sometime. I’d notice it in the car sometimes, pleasant & unremarkable.

Last night I paid attention. I got emotional at Iris (hold me close) and Song for someone. Maybe it’s my age.

I clapped and waved and sang along. I did some chair dancing and some upright bouncing along. Appreciating the sentiment, and the Paris images, I even sang along to Pride (in the name of love), which I hate.

A key part of the U2 experience is the extra stuff- those bits of the show which complement and expand on the music. When they played in the park at the bottom of our road, we had the huge golden arch and a bi plane. Was that the night of the descending lemon also?

This time round it’s the screens, massive see though screens, along and above a walk way almost the length of the arena. Not only are massive animations projected onto the screens, but the band frequently performs from inside the gap between the two, literally captured inside the whirl of images — humans interacting with digital 1s and 0s. The artistic effect is powerful.*

u2 screenu2 street screen

Today, I am exhausted and sore. I could have avoided some of that, but sometimes it’s worth the payback.

 

 

 

*from http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2015/05/20/u2-technology-large-screens-silicon-valley-ties/27648129/

all the remembering

the boy soldier, 1934
the boy soldier, 1934

Granda joined the army when he was 14; his mother tried to get him back when she found out, but he had no plans to stay on the farm. Soldiering was a grand job, he’d say, except when there was a war on. Before the war he was in Burma and India. Later he was at Dunkirk, & in North Africa. He saw the world and came back, to the town 10 miles up the road from the farm. He still worked for the army, and spent time at the Legion. He’d have his grandchildren marching round the living room, and saluting properly, but we didn’t hear many tales. I went to primary school with army children. People my age in Belfast or Derry or South Armagh had very different experiences of the army in their childhood.

Remembrance Sunday was for them, the old men. It was a day to acknowledge their service and their friends who didn’t come home. To consider all that was lost.

That all changed in 1987, when Remembrance Sunday became about all of us. The McSpecs lived in Enniskillen, we knew the people. We were all affected. This interview with Gordon Wilson still makes me cry.

pic pinched from twitter
pic pinched from twitter

There are many other veterans now, survivors of recent wars. Many other people have been lost. Young people, like Granda and his mates used to be.

None of it makes any sense. Loss, death, severe injury, homelessness, destroyed families, refugees. We will remember them all.

image from: http://www.ppu.org.uk/whitepoppy/index.html
image from: http://www.ppu.org.uk/whitepoppy/index.html