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 Imagine my relief when they contained an awful lot of out of date toiletries and hangers.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